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August 18, 2009—The Air Force’s plans to install new engines on its fleet of E-8C Joint STARS ground-surveillance aircraft reportedly may fall victim to other funding priorities. So reported the Warner Robins Patriot Aug. 13.

According to the newspaper, officials with the 116th Air Control Wing at Robins AFB, Ga., the service’s only Joint STARS unit, are anxiously awaiting the outcome of a decision on the project, which they say is essential to keep the heavily used aircraft viable in coming years.

“We are very concerned about the future of the re-engining program," said Lt. Col. Tom Grabowski, the wing’s director of plans and programs.

Air Force officials have said in the past it is essential to get new Pratt & Whitney JT8D-219 engines on the E-8C to provide more power, efficiency, and reliability than the platform’s current P&W JT3D powerplants can supply.

Last December, Northrop Grumman, prime contractor for the E-8C, began flight tests with the new engines on the Joint STARS testbed aircraft under Air Force sponsorship.

New-engine proponents are hoping that language supporting the effort will be contained in the final version of the Fiscal 2010 defense authorization bill.

(Want more on this issue? Last month, defense analyst Loren Thompson lambasted the Air Force for its perceived lack of support for Joint STARS upgrades.)