US Air Force's E-8C Joint STARS aircraft

Northrop Grumman has successfully completed flight testing of the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) test-bed aircraft, marking its progression towards receiving Military Airworthiness Certification.

Northrop Grumman Joint STARS development and modernisation programmes director, Bryan Lima, said: "The efficiencies and risk management of the test flight programme directly impacted the reduction in certification flights needed and saved the [US] government time and money."

Powered by Pratt & Whitney JT-8D engines, the aircraft’s new propulsion system consists of SevenQSeven mounting pylons and other provisions as well as a pneumatic system to support the large ground surveillance radar and other mission equipment carried onboard the aircraft.

The Military Airworthiness Certification process involves propulsion system flight tests, data analysis and approval for use on operational aircraft.

Following the completion of JT-8D Propulsion System Military Airworthiness Certification, the US Air Force’s operational aircraft fleet will be equipped with new engines in a bid to enhance takeoff performance.

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The new engines will enable the aircraft to deliver longer time-on-station and higher maximum altitudes for increased mission capable rates with low maintenance costs and enhanced fuel efficiency.

The USAF E-8C Joint STARS fleet is an all-weather, long-range, real-time, wide-area surveillance and battle management, and command and control weapons system.

The system provides battlefield commanders with real-time situational information while simultaneously transmitting target locations to aircraft and ground strike forces.

The Joint STARS platform’s wide-area moving target detection and synthetic aperture radar imagery combination enables the location, classification and tracking of ground targets in all weather conditions from standoff distances.

Image: A US Air Force’s E-8C Joint STARS aircraft. Photo: courtesy of the US Air Force.