posted on Sep, 12 2014 @ 09:30 PM
The E-8 saga has been an adventure in the last few years (and by few, I mean back to the early 2000s). One aircraft was removed from service after an
inflight refueling accident that left holes in the wing, and almost resulted in the loss of the aircraft and crew. That leaves 16 aircraft in
Over 10 years ago, the plan was put forward to replace the TF33 engines currently in use with CFM56 engines used on the KC-135R model. Proponents
said that the savings in fuel, and improvements in capability would pay for themselves, while opponents said that the cost of the upgrade wouldn't be
equal to the improvements in capability. Despite attempts to get the program pushed through, it was eventually cancelled.
Then came the idea of putting the capabilities, along with similar capabilities as seen on the E-6B Mercury, onto a single platform using a 767
aircraft. They would add aircraft to the KC-767 lease, adding the capabilities and designating the aircraft the E-10. Being associated with the
KC-767 debacle eventually killed the E-10 program before it even went into the design phase.
Now, in a new attempt to replace the J-STARS by 2022, the Air Force is looking at a business jet sized platform. Choices range from a 737-700 to a
G550. Gulfstream has been flying the G550 with various possible configurations, including radars and on board systems for almost two years at their
own expense. The G550 is the smallest platform they would use for the program.
The 737-700 has the advantage of already being used by the military as the C-40 transport, and is IFR certified already. Critics say that it's too
big, but it's only about 10 feet longer than the G550, although the fuselage is much wider. Interestingly this puts Boeing on the other side of the
argument in the KC-X program, in which they argued that the extra size of the Airbus entry would drive costs up too much. Now they have to argue that
it's to the Air Force's advantage to have a larger platform that can hold more work stations, and has room to expand.
The program is expected to cost $4.3B to buy 17 aircraft.
Sometimes you have to spend money to save money.
This has been a theme for the U.S. Air Force’s on-again, off-again desire to replace its air-ground surveillance fleet for years. And this
philosophy continues to bolster the service’s newest fleet replacement plan.
The discussion started more than a decade ago with a defunct and costly plan to reengine the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint
Stars or Jstars) aircraft; 16 of the four-engine Boeing 707s are now in inventory after one was removed from the fleet due to an inflight refueling
incident. Proponents hailed the merits of more efficient propulsion; opponents said the cost was too great to justify the capability improvements.
Joint Stars manufacturer Northrop Grumman and engine maker Pratt & Whitney fought for years to maintain congressional interest. But the project
eventually cratered due to lack of interest by the Air Force, which funded higher-priority projects.