The USAF has contracted Northrop Grumman to re-engine two of its fleet of Boeing 707 based E-8C Joint-STARS battlefield surveillance aircraft at a cost of US$223m (A$246m).
The contact covers the cost of eight P&W JT8D-219 engines, engine pylon assemblies and associated systems, and FAA certification work for the aircraft. Pending a successful conversion and certification, further funding is expected to follow to re-engine the remainder of the 19 aircraft fleet.
The Joint-STARS fleet has suffered in availability and field performance during operations in the Middle East in recent years due to the comparatively poor performance of their original TF33 turbofans. Re-engining the fleet will allow the aircraft to operate out of airfields with increased fuel loads and with greater reliability and reduced fuel burn. The JT8D-219s also meet Stage 3 noise compliance standards without hush kits, and offer much improved climb rates.
“This critical award moves us a step closer to re-engining the Joint STARS fleet,” Tom Vice, sector vice president of Northrop Grumman’s Battle Management and Engagement Systems Division said in a statement. “We’ve initially demonstrated the JT8D’s approximately 21,000lb of maximum thrust on (the E-8 testbed) and the performance improvement seen in flight testing is immediately noticeable.”
The first two aircraft are expected to be re-delivered to the USAF in 2011.