Four E-8Cs have been grounded by the Air Force after a number of problems have occurred. All the aircraft that have had problems, including these four
have recently gone through the Depot for checks. The groundings occurred after officials noticed an increase in incidents, most of which were
relatively minor (Class C or D), but one Class A, which is significant.
This isn't the first time the JSTARS fleet has had Depot problems. In 2009, 93-0597 suffered $25M in damage after the Depot left plugs in a fuel
tank. When they refueled after takeoff on a mission in the Middle East the wing ruptured. The current aircraft are being inspected at the unit level
for any safety of flight issues after work was completed.
So you're talking about 40+ year old airframes on high demand aircraft. I know these were depot related problems this time but I guess when you have
an aircraft that's got to be as maintenance intensive as this there's going to be problems.
In retrospect, it's kind of shocking to me that they chose to use clapped-out old 707 airframes in the first place. Even DC-10 airframes brought up
to KC-10 specs would have had fewer hours and more life left in them.
I'm kind of surprised that the E-8 was stuck with 707's for cost reasons, given the political climate the birthed the J-STARS program (and the kind of
budgets that were given to all the cool stuff from 1986-1994 that we STILL haven't seen). Then again, the "Reagan's secret toy fund" might be exactly
why the white E-8 program had to get by on so little dough.
The aircraft have been returned to service. All the problems found could be fixed on station. This was brought about based on a trend noticed after
aircraft came back, as well as an aircraft that suffered major damage to the radar, after condensation built up. The plugs to allow the water to drain
were left in and the water damaged the assembly.
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