MELBOURNE, Fla., July 9, 2008 (PRIME NEWSWIRE) -- A recently updated U.S. Air Force study on the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) airframe indicates that the fleet could stay in service beyond 2070. The E-8C is a Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) modified commercial aircraft that detects, locates, classifies, tracks and targets hostile ground movements, communicating real-time information through secure data links.
The intent of the report was to look at the effects of the E-8C airframe refurbishment completed during production and how that investment has resulted in the airframe being operationally and economically sustainable for 60 more years. Initially completed in 2004, the E-8C Airframe Sustainability Analysis was updated using data collected under the Aircraft Individual Tracking Program over the past four years. The analysis covered the program, fleet background, production process, operational use, current performance and sustainment projections.
"The Air Force has made a significant investment in airframe refurbishment during the production of each E-8C," said Dale Burton, Northrop Grumman vice president for Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and Battle Management Command and Control (BMC2). "Through this investment process we provided essentially zero-hour airframes to the U.S. Air Force with new components, material upgrades, parts replacements, and ensured that all known 707 structural anomalies, airworthiness directives and service bulletins were addressed.
"We included major upgrades such as rewiring the airframe and including a fiber optic backbone for the mission system network, strengthening the wings through the Wing Structural Integrity Program and resealing the fuel cells with a more durable product not available when the aircraft were first built," Burton said.
"Now the E-8C fleet is in excellent health and is well positioned to be a viable ISR platform for many years to come," said Burton. "The weapons system airframe is economically and structurally viable and ready for performance upgrades such as new engines, radar modernization and upgraded BMC2 mission equipment.
"Joint STARS has a proven track record of saving lives and providing ground commanders with invaluable intelligence on what's moving on the battlefield. Its performance in real world operations has been outstanding, deploying in every major US contingency action beginning with Operation Desert Storm in 1991."
Currently the E-8C is providing much needed support to ground troops in Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom, having flown more than 40,000 combat hours.
"We have started a program to re-engine the E-8C fleet with new Pratt & Whitney engines. New engines will improve mission performance, fuel consumption and capability rates, improve takeoff, climb and time on station, reduce maintenance hours, meet current noise and emissions standards and provide for additional growth and system upgrades," Burton concluded.
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. 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 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.
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