Northrop Grumman’s E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) testbed aircraft, equipped with a new JT-8D propulsion system, has successfully completed flight testing and moved one step closer to receiving its Military Airworthiness Certification.
The completion of the flight testing program signifies a major milestone in the Joint STARS Re-engining program and is a key component of the Military Airworthiness Certification process.
The new propulsion system includes Pratt and Whitney JT-8D engines previously certified by the FAA for Boeing 707-300 aircraft, as well as mounting pylons and other provisions supplied by SevenQSeven and a specialized pneumatic system to support the large ground surveillance radar and other mission equipment carried onboard the aircraft.
The Military Airworthiness Certification process is comprised of flight tests, data analysis and approval for the propulsion system to be used on operational aircraft such as those that support worldwide operations out of Robins Air Force Base, Ga. JT-8D Propulsion System Military Airworthiness Certification opens the door for the operational aircraft fleet to be outfitted with new engines.
A key enabling factor for the certification process was the execution of a risk mitigation program during the development and installation of the Propulsion Pod System. A total of 808 tests were completed, many of which were concurrent with other Joint STARS programs. The testing regimen improved the efficiency of the flight test program. Originally, the test program had planned for 39 total flights, but was accomplished in just 32 flights, a 20 percent reduction.
“The men and women of Northrop Grumman and our Air Force teammates did an amazing job assuring the successful completion of JT-8D flight test program,” said Bryan Lima, director, Joint STARS development and modernization programs for Northrop Grumman. “The efficiencies and risk management of the test flight program directly impacted the reduction in certification flights needed and saved the government time and money.”
Outfitting the fleet with new engines will give the U.S. Air Force-owned platform increased takeoff performance, longer time-on-station and higher maximum altitudes for increased mission capable rates. In addition, the new engines will lower maintenance costs and save money through greater fuel efficiency.
In 2011, Northrop Grumman was awarded a new $540 million Total System Support Responsibility contract. Under the TSSR program, Northrop Grumman is partnered with the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Georgia to provide integrated logistics support to the 116th and 461st Air Control Wings, for all facets of base and depot level maintenance. For over a decade, Northrop Grumman has been providing comprehensive and integrated performance-based logistics support, in the United States and at its forward operating locations.
Last October, the Joint STARS Total System Support Responsibility team, comprised of the Air Force C2ISR Aerospace Sustainment Directorate, WRALC and Northrop Grumman, was honored by the U.S. Secretary of Defense with the 2011 Performance-Based Logistics System Level Beck Award for outstanding achievements in providing war fighters with exceptional operational capability through PBL agreements and are examples of “better buying power” in action.
The first E-8C Joint STARS was delivered to the Air Force in 1996, and the last fully configured aircraft was delivered in 2005. The Joint STARS fleet is the only all-weather, long-range, real-time, wide area surveillance and battle management and command and control weapons system in the U.S. arsenal. It combines accurate wide-area moving target detection with synthetic aperture radar imagery to locate, classify and track ground targets in all weather conditions from standoff distances. Joint STARS offers battlefield commanders real-time situational information, while simultaneously transmitting target locations to aircraft and ground strike forces.
The E-8C has accumulated nearly 80,000 combat hours supporting operations, including recent support to Operation New Dawn over Iraq and Operation Odyssey Dawn over Libya, and ongoing support to Operation Enduring Freedom over Afghanistan. It has also been called to support theater operations in Southeast Asia. The fleet is flown by the 116th and 461st Air Control Wings based in Warner Robins.