MELBOURNE, Fla., March 1, 2004 (PRIMEZONE) -- Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) has delivered the 16th E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) aircraft to the U.S. Air Force, a month ahead of schedule. The company is the Air Force's Joint STARS prime contractor.
Like all Joint STARS aircraft, the new aircraft, designated P-16, will be assigned to the Georgia Air National Guard's 116th Air Control Wing, a "blended wing" with both active duty Air Force and Air National Guard personnel. The Wing is based at Robins Air Force Base, Robins, Ga.
"This delivery marks Northrop Grumman's 12th consecutive early delivery of a Joint STARS aircraft," said Dave Nagy, the company's Joint STARS program vice president. "Our track record of exceeding our customer's expectations is especially significant given the accelerating pace of operational demand on the 116th Wing personnel and equipment."
The E-8C Joint STARS is the world's most advanced airborne ground surveillance, targeting and battle management system. From a standoff position, it detects, locates, classifies, tracks and targets hostile ground movements, communicating real-time information through secure data links with Air Force and U.S. Army command posts.
All Joint STARS aircraft are based on a Boeing 707 airframe. "Each aircraft goes through a $40 million refurbishment program at Northrop Grumman's production facility at Lake Charles, La.," explained Nagy.
The refurbishment program consists of extensive inspection, treatment and elimination of corrosion and the replacement of structural components and panels as required. The aircraft are re-wired and fuel tanks are stripped and re-sealed to increase aircraft availability by preventing fuel leaks. The aircraft is also brought into compliance with all outstanding Airworthiness Directives/Service Bulletins and Supplemental Structural Inspection Documents.
In addition, the JSTARS' Wing Structural Integrity Program (WSIP) addresses widespread fatigue damage that has been a problem for other 707 airframes. WISP replaces stressed lower wing planks and stringers.
"We've invested significant time, energy and resources in making the Joint STARS fleet the most airworthy platforms in service today," explained Nagy. "It's given the Air Force the confidence that Joint STARS will be able to meet the commitments of the warfighter until at least 2025 or beyond as specified by Air Combat Command in the Joint STARS Weapon System Master Plan."
One of the critical needs identified in Operation Iraqi Freedom was the need for more satellite communication (SATCOM) elements. P-16 will use an upgraded SATCOM radio to help meet this need. The SATCOM modification allows the Joint STARS to transmit and receive UHF SATCOM voice and digital data to beyond-line-of-sight locations.
The Joint STARS P-16 aircraft is the sixth aircraft produced in the so-called Block 20 configuration. The configuration features an integrated, commercial off-the-shelf computing and signal processing architecture that can be easily upgraded with new technology. This open architecture allows the E-8C's hardware and software to be cost effectively upgraded to meet future surveillance, targeting and battle management requirements.
Northrop Grumman is currently performing the Block 20 upgrade on the first 10 Joint STARS aircraft delivered to the Air Force. To date, four Block 10 aircraft have been upgraded to the Block 20 configuration, with three more in progress. "By the time we deliver the last of 17 Joint STARS aircraft next year, all of the original Block 10 aircraft will have been upgraded," said Nagy. "At that point, the entire fleet will have the same flexible, open system configuration, clearing the way for affordable mission upgrades well into the future."
Besides SATCOM and the increased processing capability of the Block 20 configuration, P-16 is the first production Joint STARS to be delivered with a new Global Air Traffic Management capability known as Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum. Using Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum, the Joint STARS aircraft can reduce the required distance between it and other aircraft sharing the same airspace. This capability will allow Joint STARS aircraft to safely fly more optimal routes, gain fuel savings and increase airspace capacity.
In addition to producing Joint STARS aircraft, Northrop Grumman provides a broad range of logistics and training support to the Air Force under a Total Systems Support Responsibility contract. The contract is a unique partnership between the company and the Air Force that maximizes the operational availability and mission reliability of the E-8C Joint STARS fleet. It has also helped assure a seamless transition to the "blended wing" concept under the 116th ACW.
Northrop Grumman's Integrated Systems sector leads the Northrop Grumman Joint STARS development team. Norden Systems, a unit of Northrop Grumman's Electronic Systems sector, manufactures the Joint STARS radar sensor at its Norwalk, Conn. facility.
Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems is a premier aerospace and defense systems integration enterprise. Headquartered in El Segundo, Calif., it designs, develops, produces and supports network-enabled integrated systems and subsystems for government and civil customers worldwide. Integrated Systems delivers best-value solutions, products and services that support military missions in the areas of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; space access; battle management command and control; and integrated strike warfare.
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