Robins to gain new mission, 339th to expand with E-8C air crew

  • Published
  • By Jenny Gordon
  • Robins Public Affairs
There are a few job openings in the 339th Flight Test Squadron at Robins.
If you're specifically looking to continue a flying career aboard the E-8C's Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, also based here, there's an opportunity to do just that.

The flight test squadron's mission will expand with the addition of five positions supporting E-8C sustainment flight test.

The unit plans to hire two full-time Active Guard Reserve positions this fall, including one major pilot and one senior master sergeant flight engineer. The two full-time members will rotate every three years.

Three part-time crew members will include a navigator, pilot and flight engineer.

"This move will create a new relationship between the Air Force Reserve Command and Georgia Air National Guard," said Lt. Col. Chris Coddington, 339th FLTS director of operations.

The current workload will remain at Northrop Grumman's Maintenance and Modification Center in Lake Charles, La., which performs heavy programmed depot maintenance on the fleet.

What will change is the newly-created E-8C air crew from the 339th FLTS will be flying planes to the Louisiana facility, and once maintenance is performed, the squadron will return, perform flight tests and deliver aircraft back to the customer - Team JSTARS.

"Being co-located here enables us to maintain a strong relationship with our Air Combat Command partners to keep our E-8C crew engaged with the mission," he said.

The move will create several advantages, including close proximity of E-8C test pilots to air crew members just down the road in the 116th and 461st Air Control Wings.

"That will allow us to better perform our mission when we know how the airplanes are being used and we know the people using them," added Coddington.

Sustainment flight testing responsibility for E-8C aircraft will fall under the 339th FLTS on Oct. 1, 2016, which gives the squadron a little more than a year to meet all logistics, scheduling and training needs.

The squadron falls under the 413th Flight Test Group here. There's discussion that once the E-8C crew is in place, they'll train on the E-3 Sentry - an airborne warning and control system, or AWACS - which has its check flights performed by the 10th Flight Test Squadron at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. Some of the E-3 crew have already performed simulation training at Robins on the E-8C.

Having crews who can support both E-3 and E-8C aircraft would allow more flying opportunities for personnel and more flexibility for schedulers.

"With the drawdown of the Joint Task Force Detachment 1 in Melbourne, Fla., we were challenged to employ a new Functional Check Flight support organization. The 413th FTG stepped up and accepted the mission," said Lt. Col. Christopher Kadala, Joint STARS Branch materiel leader. "We look forward to partnering with the 413th FTG and the 339th FLTS in supporting the warfighter."

Earlier this summer, the reconnaissance aircraft surpassed 100,000 combat flying hours in support of operations in U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility, which includes many countries throughout the Middle East.

As one of the Air Force's top acquisition priorities, efforts are currently underway to replace the specialized aircraft with a smaller, business class size airframe, with the latest battlefield management systems, communication and radar.

According to Kadala, their program office provides acquisition support and assistance to the Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., team as they progress further towards a materiel solution.

The JSTARS Recap Program Office in early August awarded three pre-engineering, manufacturing and development contracts to Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrop Grumman.

The option period, contingent upon a successful Milestone A approval, is for completing a system functional review, preliminary design review and subsystem prototype demonstrations.