Five USAF E-8C Joint STARS damaged by debris following engine mishap

Five U.S. Air Force E-8C Joint STARS airborne ground surveillance aircraft were damaged following an engine mishap during the maintenance run at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia on Dec. 21.

According to reports, one of the aircraft’s engine failed for reasons unknown during a maintenance test run on a crowded ramp, spreading debris across parking areas and caused damage to four other aircraft in the fleet.

Four airmen were evaluated for injuries but released following the incident. The 116th Air Control Wing grounded JSTARS flight operations briefly to clear debris from the failed engine off the airport. The 116th ACW is the only Air National Guard unit operating the E-8C Joint STARS) an advanced ground surveillance and battle management system.

A Safety Investigation Board is scheduled to arrive at the base on Dec. 28 to determine the cause of the engine mishap.

According to FlightGlobal, three of the five damaged aircraft returned to flight status within three days, and a fourth aircraft is expected to be repaired shortly. The status of the fifth aircraft with the failed engine was not immediately available, but it appears to remain grounded.

The report added that the incident caused no damage to any of the Northrop APY-7 radars installed inside a belly canoe fairing on each of the JSTARS aircraft citing a spokesman for the 116th Wing. The report noted that each E-8C is powered by four Pratt & Whitney TF33-102C engines, a 1950s design derived from the once ubiquitous P&W JT-3.

E-8 Joint STARS

Northrop Grumman E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) is a U.S. Air Force Airborne ground surveillance, battle management and command and control (C2) aircraft.

Joint STARS detects, locates, classifies, tracks and targets ground movements on the battlefield, communicating real-time information through secure data links with U.S. Forces command posts.

The E-8C is an aircraft modified from the Boeing 707-300 series commercial airliner. The E-8 carries specialized radar, communications, operations and control subsystems. The most prominent external feature is the 40 ft (12 m) canoe-shaped radome under the forward fuselage that houses the 24 ft (7.3 m) APY-7 passive electronically scanned array Side looking airborne radar (PESA SLAR) antenna.

The aircraft is operated by both active duty Air Force and Air National Guard units and also carries specially trained U.S. Army personnel as additional flight crew.

The JSTARS fleet consists of 16 E-8C aircraft and one E-8A trainer.

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