NORTHROP GRUMMAN is to re-engine the Boeing E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) aircraft to be offered to NATO.
The US company is already in talks with potential suppliers BMW Rolls-Royce and CFM International about the BR 715 and the CFM 56-3B, respectively. The effect of replacing the Pratt & Whitney JT3-Ds on US Air Force E-8s will be to meet noise restrictions, lower through- life costs and increase operational flexibility.
Engine selection is likely to be influenced by, which of the NATO countries participates in the programme, says Northrop Grumman. The CFM 5 appears to have the advantage as it has already been fitted to European and other USAF military applications of the 707 airframe used for the E-8.
NATO has already established a provisional programme office, which is undertaking project definition. A decision to proceed could be made in November, when alliance-member governments will meet. If the requirement is viewed as urgent, a contract could be awarded in mid-1998, and the first delivery made by mid-2002.
The programme office is already being briefed by potential bidders. Northrop Grumman has provided data to meet a NATO request for costings on five, ten and 15 aircraft. The company believes that the eventual purchase could be as high as 18 aircraft - similar to the number of NATO Airborne Early Warning aircraft now in operation.
Other companies also have proposals, including long-range business-jet-based solutions founded on project-definition studies. Raytheon E-Systems and Lockheed Martin have recently competed for a similar UK requirement known as the ASTOR.
French and Italian helicopter-based systems are also being considered by NATO. Although they only provide limited surveillance, one of the decisions NATO has to make is whether to have only long-range fixed-wing aircraft or introduce a complementary mixture of aircraft and helicopters.
Source: Flight International