Not Going Anywhere Yet

The Air Force’s E-8C aircraft still have a lot of life left in them and, with marginal investments in items like new engines and radar improvements, could remain the nation’s premier wide-area ground-surveillance platforms “for the next 30 to 40 years,” says Northrop Grumman’s Dave Nagy, vice president of business development for battle management and engagement systems. The Air Force leadership earlier this month said plans to re-engine all 17 E-8Cs are in limbo as the service mulls issues like Joint STARS airframe longevity. E-8Cs are based on refurbished 707 airframes that Northrop converted to the military configuration and now maintains. In an interview, Nagy said these airframes are sound based on the $1.6 billion investment made in refurbishing them as well as the robust upkeep activities in place. Clearly the E-8C’s current engines are “the Achilles heel” of the platform’s long-term viability, he said.