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Re-engined Joint STARS Takes to Skies: The first E-8C joint surveillance target attack radar system aircraft fitted with new engines made its maiden flight Dec. 21 in Melbourne, Fla., lead contractor Northrop Grumman said in a release. The flight of the modified E-8C test bed aircraft began the military air worthiness certification test phase for the E-8C, a ground-surveillance aircraft, carrying four new Pratt & Whitney JT-8D-219 engines as part of a new propulsion pod system that features Seven Q Seven pylons, thrust reversers, and instrumentation. This testing will last into spring 2009. “We are another step closer to the benefits these new engines bring to our troops," said Tom Vice, vice president of Northrop Grumman's Integrated Systems sector for the eastern region, of the maiden flight. The new engines, which are destined for the entire E-8C operational fleet of 17 aircraft, offer greater reliability, fuel efficiency, and operational effectiveness than the fleet’s existing P&W TF33-102C powerplants, according to the company. With them, “Joint STARS will climb faster, fly higher, and require fewer in-flight refuelings, which all translate to more time on station,” said Vice. The first operational Joint STARS is scheduled to get the new engines in late 2010. Northrop rolled out the test bed aircraft with the new engines from its Melbourne plant on Dec. 17.