Final destination: JSTARS aircraft transferred to Museum of Aviation

  • Published
  • By Kisha Foster Johnson
  • 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs Office

An E-8C Joint STARS aircraft rolled into retirement from Robins Air Force Base, Georgia and to its final home at the Museum of Aviation on July 16. 

The Air Force E-8C, serial number 00-2000, was towed three miles along parts of Georgia Highway 247 and Russell Parkway. The historic event took more than four hours to complete.

Museum of Aviation Director Kenneth Emery said he is thrilled to have the aircraft added to the museum’s collection.

“This is what future generations will be able to see,” said Emery. “The museum is honored to have this JSTARS join the collection and be part of the preservation mission of the museum and preserved for posterity. This aircraft will represent the JSTARS missions and all the men and women who served the two wings and the Air Force Materiel Command support agencies and contractors who sustained the aircraft and mission.”

The primary mission of the E-8C Joint STARS aircraft was to provide theater ground and air commanders with ground surveillance and battle management to support attack operations and targeting that contributes to the delay, disruption and destruction of enemy forces.

“We are honored to have the Museum of Aviation display an E-8C JSTARS after an amazing history that spans nearly three decades in Middle Georgia,” said Col. Christopher Dunlap, 116th Air Control Wing commander. “It is a fitting tribute to the airframe, and the dedicated crews who flew and maintained it, to be hosted in the community that provided essential support to the Georgia Air National Guard, Robins Air Force Base and the JSTARS mission.”

According to 461st Air Control Wing historian Kevin Mulberger, there were 17 Joint STARS aircraft, of which 16 were operational and one was used for training. He also noted the donated aircraft served as Air Force One during the Clinton Administration and it may be the only one preserved.

The remaining E-8Cs will be taken to military aircraft boneyards to be dismantled. Some parts will be salvaged and used in maintenance of other aircraft.

“The contributions of the E-8C aircraft and all the joint personnel it took to execute its missions will always have a unique and storied place in Air Force history,” said Col. Adam Shelton, 461st ACW commander. “Following our WWII lineage, the Liberaiders of the 461st ACW executed the command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions worldwide, every single time they were called upon.”

Mulberger said Joint STARS 00-2000 participated in 480 combat sorties and was involved in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn, Operation Odyssey Dawn, and Operation Unified Protector.

As the active duty units transition into new missions, the Airmen will retrain into new and emerging weapon systems.

Some of those are new missions standing up at Robins include: the Advanced Battle Management-System Family of Systems, an intelligence-gathering network under development that allows real-time sharing of battlefield information between satellites in space, military aircraft, ground forces and commanders; an E-11A Battlefield Airborne Communication Node squadron; a spectrum warfare group; and a battle management command and control squadron.

MoA Restoration Chief Tony Day said the aircraft will be temporarily displayed on the north side of the Scott Exhibit hangar, which is also known as the World War II hangar.

“Basically, the aircraft is in excellent condition since it recently went through the depot process before it was retired from the Air Force inventory,” said Day. “You will be able to see the aircraft when you enter or exit the base from the Russell gate.

“Our short-term goal is to get the aircraft reassembled and install it in an air-conditioned unit to slow/prevent the damage from the moisture,” Day added. “The long-term goal is to eventually build a display hangar large enough to display it.”

The JSTARS 00-2000 aircraft

The JSTARS 00-2000 aircraft, model number 707-369C, was constructed in 1969 and served in many capacities during its 54 years of existence.

-March 1970: A Canadian airline, Wardair Canada, operated charter flights into and out of the United States, accepted initial delivery of this aircraft, where it remained in service for more than ten years.

-Dec. 1979: Montana Austria was an airline based in Vienna, which purchased and operated the aircraft until they ceased operations, May 1981. During ownership, the airline leased the aircraft to Sudan in 1974 and Nigeria in 1980.

-1981: The Department of Justice seized and impounded the aircraft. It is believed to have been seized from drug smugglers.

-May 1985: United States Air Force purchased aircraft for VIP transport.

-Feb. 2003: Northrop Grumman Corporation completed its conversion of the aircraft to an E-8C JSTARS.

-April 5, 2003: Flew first combat sortie in the Central Command Area of Responsibility.

-Feb. 24, 2004: E-8C JSTARS serial number 00-2000 was delivered to Robins Feb. 24, 2004.

- 461st Air Control Wing Office of History