A product of the Northrop Grumman Corporation, the E-8 "Joint Stars" series of aircraft provides the United States Air Force with electronic "eyes" over the battlefield in the way of aerial surveillance. The aircraft is based on a highly-modified version of Boeing's 707 civil transport plane and retains the basic fuselage shape and four engine low-monoplane wings. Deployed in a limited capacity in 1991, the system saw full operational service by 1996 and continues playing a vital role with American forces through the 116th ACW, which retains 17 such aircraft.
The E-8 Joint Stars system was developed to a US Army and US Air Force requirement for an aircraft platform that was capable of tracking enemy ground targets along frontlines. The contract was awarded to Grumman and two Boeing 707-300 types were chosen for extensive modification. The platform would be powered by four Pratt & Whitney TF33-102C turbofan engines and feature a host of specialized tracking, communications and radar equipment that could assist ground commanders in providing them with near-real time information with a limited ability to track aerial threats.
The most notable design feature of the E-8 is the long fuselage attachment on the forward bottom of the aircraft. This assembly houses a positional side-looking phased array antenna of the Northrop Grumman (Norden) APY-3 type, providing crews and commanders alike with varying fields of view and target detection well over 250 kilometers. The system can track up to 1,000,000 kilometers in one 8-hour sortie (mission endurance time for the aircraft is 9 hours). Pulse Doppler modes are also available, assisting the crew in tracking moving targets. Information gathers by E-8 entities are then relayed to ground control links and, from there, the information is assessed by proper officials. Crew accommodations amount to a full compliment of 4 flight crew personnel, and additional 14 Air Force specialists and three US Army specialists. Of course this can vary based on mission type.
The E-8 was deployed in a basic developmental form during the 1991 Persian Gulf War to which the two aircraft flew a total of 49 sorties. It would later be fielded in support of NATO during the war in Bosnia/Kosovo and more recently in operations Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and Iraqi Freedom (Iraq).
February 2018 - The USAF will attempt to end an active program seeking to succeed the aging E-8C platforms currently in service.
July 2018 - It was announced that the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) will effectively end the USAF bid to purchase more JSTARS aircraft. In its place, the USAF hopes to fund and develop the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) involving unmanned air vehicles such as the MQ-9 drone.
Status Active, In-Service
Crew 4 + 18
Production 17 Units
Northrop Grumman Corporation - USA
- Reconnaissance (RECCE)
152.89 ft (46.6 m)
145.67 ft (44.4 m)
42.65 ft (13 m)
4 x Pratt and Whitney TF33-102C turbofan engines generating 19,200lbs each.
587 mph (944 kph; 510 kts)
42,001 feet (12,802 m; 7.95 miles)
(Showcased performance values pertain to the Northrop Grumman E-8C Joint STARS (JSTARS) production model; Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database)
(Showcased armament details pertain to the Northrop Grumman E-8C Joint STARS (JSTARS) production model)
E-8A - Prototypes converted from Boeing 707-300 airliners; two such models produced.
E-8B - New production aircraft models proposed; 22 ordered by the USAF but later dropped in favor of the second-hand build E-8C model.
E-8C - Latest Production Model of which 17 were produced for the United States Air Force.
Values are derrived from a variety of categories related to the design, overall function, and historical influence of this aircraft in aviation history.
The overall rating takes into account over 60 individual factors related to this aircraft entry. The rating is out of a possible 100.
Relative Maximum Speed
This entry's maximum listed speed (587mph).
Graph average of 562.5 miles-per-hour.
Aviation Era Span
Showcasing era cross-over of this aircraft design.
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