First Squadron of E-2D Advanced Hawkeye Ready to Deploy
NORFOLK, Va. — The Navy in 2015 will deploy the first squadron of its new airborne early warning aircraft, the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, a Navy official said Oct. 16.
The Advanced Hawkeye reached initial operating capability Oct. 10, meaning that a squad of five aircraft is manned, trained, equipped and ready to deploy, said Capt. Drew Basden, commodore of the Navy’s airborne command, control and logistics wing. The aircraft will move to the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier next year.
The Navy has flown its predecessor, the E-2C Hawkeye, for 50 years, said Capt. John Lemmon, program manager for E-2/C-2. The aircraft can detect and identify what is happening in the air or on the sea’s surface, and then communicate that information to commanders, increasing the carrier strike group's situational awareness.
The E-2C was designed for a blue water environment, said Cmdr. John Hewitt, head of the VAW-120 squadron that trains pilots and maintainers on the E-2D, "and it did that job very, very well.” However, "it had its limitations in a littoral and over-land environment."
With the Advanced Hawkeye, operators have the ability to see very small air and surface targets "over land, over water, it really doesn't matter. The aircraft does not care about its operating environment,” he said.
Although the E-2D is completely new airframe, it looks mostly the same as the older E-2C. That’s because the original was built and designed for the airborne early warning mission, so there was no need for Northrop Grumman to completely redesign it, said Bart LaGrone, the company’s vice president for E-2/C-2 programs.
The newer airplane is about 2,500 pounds heavier in order to accommodate more equipment, he said. “We had to redesign 60 percent of the fuselage to handle the heavier weight of the aircraft.”
The biggest draw is the E-2D’s new APY-9 radar system, designed by Lockheed Martin, Lemmon said. "It can detect smaller targets at greater ranges [and] track them,” and is advanced enough to support naval integrated fire control-counter air missions — the Navy’s concept to better network every aircraft and ship in a carrier air wing and strike group, allowing them to cooperatively engage an adversary. Lemmon declined to state the radar’s range.
The increased size of the radar meant that Northrop had to beef up the E-2D’s engine, choosing the T56-A-427A manufactured by Rolls Royce, LaGrone said.
Another new feature of the aircraft is that one of its pilots can serve as a fourth tactical operator when not taking off or landing the plane, LaGrone said.
It can also play a role in humanitarian operations, he said. Its communication suite allows it to search for survivors of natural disasters, for example, and prioritize rescue missions.
So far, Northrop Grumman has delivered 15 E-2Ds with a 16th scheduled for November, LaGrone said. The company will manufacture about five aircraft per year.
The Navy has contracted for 50 Advanced Hawkeyes, but plans to buy a total of 75 to replace its 52-aircraft legacy fleet. It will begin sunsetting the E-2C in 2017, and the entire Hawkeye fleet is expected to have transitioned to the newer aircraft by 2027.
Program officials plan on incorporating additional capabilities on the aircraft in the coming years. The Navy in August conducted a preliminary design review on aerial refueling, which could be on the E- 2D as early as 2020, Lemmon said.
Adding that capability “will play a huge role in extending our persistence and reach,” he said.
The service also wants to begin integrating and testing the Tactical Targeting Network Technologies data link on the aircraft within the next year, Lemmon said. The link will reduce transmission latencies and provide additional bandwidth.
Northrop Grumman is exploring foreign military sales of the Advanced Hawkeye to countries including United Arab Emirates and India, LaGrone said. Current international operators of the E2C include Japan, Taiwan, Egypt and France.