MELBOURNE, Fla., May 13, 2008 (PRIME NEWSWIRE) -- The U.S. Air Force has awarded Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) two undefinitized contracts, worth $300 million collectively, to complete non-recurring engineering, flight test/certification and begin production of new engines for the service's E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) fleet. The E-8C is a modified B707-300 series commercial aircraft that detects, locates, classifies, tracks and targets hostile ground movements, communicating real-time information through secure data links.

Work will begin immediately with the test bed aircraft based in Melbourne being the first E-8 to convert to the Pratt and Whitney JT8D engine and complete military certification flight test activities, which will begin later this year. Concurrently, production startup activity begins with Northrop Grumman's principal subcontractors, Pratt and Whitney and Seven Q Seven, to produce a propulsion pod system that includes JT8D core engines, nacelles, thrust reversers and pylons. The first retrofit to the Joint STARS fleet is set for late 2010.

"The new JT8Ds will improve mission performance, fuel consumption, takeoff, and climb rates, increase time on station and mission capability, meet current noise and emissions standards and provide for additional growth and system upgrades," said Dale Burton, Northrop Grumman vice president for Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and Air Force Battle Management Command and Control (BMC2). "The new engines will also reduce maintenance man-hours. The JT3D engines, which have been the workhorse for 707s since their production, were our number one maintenance issue.

"We will replace the engines on each of the 17 operational jets during their routine periodic depot maintenance schedules, which will result in no additional downtime for the operators," he said. "Overall life cycle cost will also be significantly reduced as a result of the improved reliability and efficiency of the JT8D engines, one of the world's most popular commercial jet engines. Nearly 12,000 of these engines have been built, accumulating more than half a billion hours of service.

"Additionally, this keeps the E-8C fleet in its current position as the most viable wide area surveillance ISR platform for many years to come," said Burton. "The weapons system airframe is economically and structurally viable and now will be ready to power future performance upgrades such as radar and BMC2 mission equipment modernization."

The Joint STARS E-8C airframe is the only military 707-based platform where the program has invested $35-$45 million in airframe refurbishment during production with new components, material upgrades, and parts replacements, and has also ensured that all known structural anomalies, airworthiness directives and service bulletins were addressed. A recent E-8C Airframe Sustainability Analysis concluded that the airframe is operationally and economically sustainable for 50 more years.

In its relatively short operational life, Joint STARS performance in real world operations has been outstanding. It has a proven track record of saving lives and providing ground commanders with invaluable intelligence on what's moving on the battlefield. It has deployed to every major U.S. overseas military operation beginning with Operation Desert Storm and Kosovo, while still a development program, to the present, almost reaching the 40,000-combat hour milestone in Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.

Joint STARS is an excellent example of Northrop Grumman's systems integration experience and ability to convert commercial aircraft for military missions in close partnership with the Air Force acquisition, maintenance and operator communities and industry subcontractors. Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for the E-8C Joint STARS, having delivered 17 aircraft to the 116th Air Control Wing at Robins AFB, Georgia, and currently providing life cycle maintenance and training under the Total System Support Responsibility program.

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a global defense and technology company whose 120,000 employees provide innovative systems, products, and solutions in information and services, electronics, aerospace and shipbuilding to government and commercial customers worldwide.

  CONTACT:  Jim Stratford
          Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems
          (321) 726-7526