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Engine Certification Starts for Joint STARS: Northrop Grumman on Dec. 17 unveiled at its Melbourne, Fla., facility, the test bed E-8C Joint STARS ground surveillance aircraft with its new Pratt & Whitney engines. The first of the military certification flights for the new JT8D-219 engines was to start this week. In a company release, Col. Jim Lovell, commander of the 751st Electronic Systems Group, which oversees the E-8C development program, said, "The reliability and fuel efficiency of these new engines will yield huge benefits to the warfighter—it's all about improving operational capability," Tom Vice, Eastern Region VP for Northrop's Integrated Systems sector, added, "Joint STARS will climb faster, fly higher, and require fewer in-flight refuelings, which all translate to more time on station providing valuable information to our ground troops." The Air Force awarded contracts to Northrop in early summer 2008 to complete development and begin production to convert the E-8C test bed to the new P&W engines using the Seven Q Seven Propulsion Pod System; USAF expects the first of 17 operational E-8s to receive the new powerplants in 2010.