Three of the five E-8C reconnaissance airplanes that were damaged in an engine mishap Dec. 19 have resumed mission-ready status.

In a Dec. 28 release, the 116th Air Control Wing at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia said the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System planes were damaged when one JSTARS aircraft’s engine failed. This spread debris on the ramp, damaging four other nearby JSTARS planes.

The 116th’s first release on the mishap, released Dec. 22, initially said four airmen were evaluated for injuries and released. It was later updated to say they were evaluated as a precautionary measure. Second Lt. Dustin Cole, a spokesman for the 116th, said in an email Thursday that no injuries have been reported at this time.

Cole also said the JSTARS that had the engine problem, as well as a fourth aircraft damaged when debris was flung onto the ramp, have not yet returned to mission-ready status.

The 116th said in the release that its personnel, as well as airmen from the 461st Air Control Wing, worked “day and night” to get the three JSTARS operational again, and clear debris.

“The teamwork of our integrated guard and active duty maintenance complex is an example to every unit,” Col. James Long, commander of the 461st Maintenance Group, said in the release. “The men and women of the 116th and 461st Maintenance Groups used a disciplined and detailed inspection process to access and then repair the affected aircraft. It is an honor to serve among such an impressive team of professionals.”

A Safety Investigation Board was scheduled to arrive at Robins Dec. 28 to begin investigating what caused the engine mishap.

JSTARS is a modified Boeing 707-300 that serves as an airborne battle management, command and control, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform. It has a 27-foot-long, canoe-shaped radome under its forward fuselage that contains an antenna to gather battlefield information on ground forces. That information is quickly relayed to Army and Marine Corps stations and other ground command, control, communications, computers and intelligence nodes.

The Air Force does not have many JSTARS. In 2016, readiness figures showed 16 in the Air Force’s inventory, but only 11 or 12 were mission-capable at any given time.

Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.

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