The USAF has awarded a contract to Northrop, for the development of two E-8C joint surveillance target attack radar system (joint STARS) propulsion pod system (PPS) shipsets and FAA certification.

Under the $223.6m contract, Northrop will produce the shipsets, each of which will include four Pratt & Whitney JT8D-219 engines, pylon assemblies and associated aircraft system interconnections.

The E-8C is the world’s most advanced wide-area airborne ground-surveillance, targeting and battle-management system.

E-8C uses secure data links, including joint and component command and control elements, to detect, locate, classify, track and target hostile ground movements and communicate real-time information.

The new engines will provide the E-8 with increased power and fuel economy to fly higher and maintain longer time on station, as well as provide a better view of the battlespace.

Northrop battle management and engagement systems division sector vice-president Tom Vice said that with JT8D engines, joint STARS would be able to take off from shorter runways, increasing basing options and reducing the transit time to get on station.

“Shorter transit time, along with the improved fuel efficiency and increased reliability of these new engines all translate to more joint STARS time on station – a critical benefit to US and coalition forces,” he said.

Managed by the 751st Electronic Support Group at Hanscom Air Force Base, the joint STARS aircraft are assigned to the Georgia Air National Guard’s 116th Air Control Wing.

Northrop will begin delivery in 2011, after receiving final military certifications of the engines on T-3, the joint STARS test bed aircraft.