In Melbourne, Florida, the first USAF E-8C Joint STARS is about to be fitted with Pratt & Whitney JT8D-219s. The upgrade will give the 707-based aircraft better performance, greater range and endurance, and improved environmental characteristics. As with all re-engining efforts, the move to the -219 is a beneficial leap from the JT3D/TF33 which originally began flight tests in 1960. The -219 is no spring chicken however, even though the units supplied to the E-8C fleet will be new production engines with newly-certificated improvements. The prototype JT8D-200 version entered flight test (on the YC-15 STOL transport) in 1977, and the -219 was certificated for the MD-80 in 1985.
The first engine is dropped from the 7Q7-owned testbed before being transferred to the E-8C testbed. (Northrop Grumman)
Northrop Grumman expect installations to start in fall of 2010 coinciding with scheduled depot maintenance for the E-8Cs. The testbed aircraft, due to start flying military certification test flights with the new engines in December, will itself be re-engined a second time with a production-standard shipset in 2011. Northrop Grumman adds that with the current funding profile, it will take 5 to 7 years to complete all the installations. “We are working with the USAF to explore options to accelerate funding,” it adds. The upgrade follows the successful completion of FAA supplemental type certification flights earlier this month on a Seven Q Seven-modified Boeing 707 at Mojave, Calif. (AW&ST, Oct 13).
What the E-8C will look like with the long-duct nacelled JT8D-219 (Northrop Grumman)