The U.S. Air Force E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, or Joint STARS, achieved a significant objective March 3 as part of the ongoing System Design and Development Re-engining effort.
A First Engine Delivery Ceremony was held at the Pratt & Whitney production facility in Middletown, Conn., to mark the completion of the first production Pratt & Whitney engine for delivery to the Joint STARS re-engining prime contractor, Northrop Grumman.
"The newly manufactured JT8D-219 engine contains several internal and external upgrades from its commercial counterpart," said John Dobbins, Electronic Systems Center Joint STARS re-engining program manager. "The new engine shipset is predicted to increase the thrust and fuel efficiency of the Joint STARS weapon system, resulting in significantly increased mission duration and altitude, and enabling operations from shorter runways."
Four JT8D-219 engines form the core of a Joint STARS re-engining shipset, which also includes pylons, thrust reversers, cowlings, pneumatic bleed air systems, updated wiring hydraulics and cockpit gauges for an E-8C Joint STARS aircraft.
A test configuration of the JT8D-219 shipset is presently configured on the Joint STARS T-3 test aircraft and undergoing flight testing to validate its performance characteristics and to collect data for E-8C flight simulator training systems. Flight testing is ongoing and will include deployments to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., this spring for thrust-stand and wet-runway tests.
Key upgrades to the engine include a nickel high-pressure compressor rotor system for increased corrosion resistance, an enhanced bleed air override system, improved tower shaft and gearbox elements to accommodate E-8C electrical loads and modifications to the pylons for attachment to the aircraft wing.
Pratt & Whitney's updated version of the JT8D-219 and Seven Q Seven's shipset design both recently received Federal Aviation Administration Supplemental Type Certificates for commercial use on Boeing 707 series aircraft. The E-8C is a modified Boeing 707-300 series commercial airframe extensively remanufactured and modified with the radar, communications, operations and control subsystems required to perform its operational mission.
The Developmental Flight Test Program is scheduled to culminate this fall following retrofit of the first production shipset and updated pneumatic bleed air system to the T-3 aircraft to verify system performance.
Commemorating the occasion at the ceremony were several senior representatives from the Air Force and industry, including Maj. Gen. Thomas Moore, commanding general of the Georgia Air National Guard, primary operator of the E-8C, as well as executives from Pratt & Whitney, Northrop Grumman and Seven Q Seven, designer of the JT8D-219 shipset for the E-8C.
"The First Engine Delivery Ceremony marks a tremendous accomplishment for our government and industry team," said Col. David Hiltz, Aerial Ground Surveillance Systems Division chief and the senior materiel leader for Joint STARS at ESC. "Led by Northrop Grumman and their partners Pratt and Whitney and Seven Q Seven, the re-engining program is on track to successfully complete system design and development at the end of 2012."
Following SDD, the program will proceed to a full-rate production decision. This decision will be based upon the needs and priorities of the Air Force, along with the results of the SDD developmental and operational testing. The findings from an ongoing Air Combat Command Joint STARS mission area and ground moving-target indicator analysis of alternatives, as well as service life determination studies, will also be considered.
"I am very proud of the years of tireless effort put forth by both our government team and industry partners," said Lt. Col. Kevin Massie, E-8 Air Vehicle Branch chief. "We look forward to finishing flight testing and taking delivery of first two shipsets of engines in 2012."
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