The retirement of some types from service gets a lot of attention from people. The last Phantoms leaving US service were well covered. The upcoming end of KC-10 operations is already getting discussed. However, the removal of the E-8 JSTARS seemed to just happen without much discussion. I have to admit it caught me off guard. I didn’t know that they were going away let alone that it had already happened.
With this milestone having slipped past me, I figured I should go back through the catalog and see what times I have shot E-8s. Not a lot of encounters with Red Flag having been my most productive venues. They were old jets when they became E-8s and I heard from a friend that one of them had gone through some interesting other configurations before making its way in to the E-8 fleet. They are consequently old enough to deserve retirement. It will be a shame not to see them around anymore.
E-8 JSTARS are not a rare thing at Red Flag but they do often get involved in the night sorties. Seeing one heading out to play for the daytime activities was a pleasant surprise. On their return on the first day they were following in the KDC-10 that I mentioned in a previous post. They also adopted some sporty approach techniques and were similarly unsuccessful in converting them in to a landing. The go around ensued and was followed by a more conventional straight in approach and landing.
A jet I don’t often get to see in action is the E-8 JSTARS. There aren’t a huge number of them and they often fly at times that don’t suit photography so I have not previously got a lot of shots of them and certainly not too many in flight. Based on the 707-300 airframe, they were pretty old when they were selected for conversion to the JSTARs mission. They are definitely showing their age and the USAF is in the process of competing for a replacement program. There are a few years left for the E-8 but they won’t be around for too much longer.
One feature of their age is the engines that they have. The jets are fitted with old JT3D engines. A program had been put in place to re-engine them with JT8Ds and a modified jet did fly. However, the program was put on hold due to the potential for a replacement aircraft making the payback period unviable. As a result, we got the old smoky jets. It isn’t as bad as the old pure jet days of the KC-135s and B-52s but it still is easy to track the jet as it climbs out courtesy of the black trail it leaves behind.