- The E-2D Advanced Hawkeye is the US Navy’s newest airborne early warning and control aircraft.
- It first flew on August 3, 2007 and was delivered to the Navy in 2010.
- The E-2D is the Navy’s eye in the sky, guiding its friends and tracking its foes from hundreds of miles away.
On August 3, the US Navy‘s “digital quarterback,” the Northrop Grumman E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, celebrated the 15th anniversary of its first flight.
The E-2D is the newest variant of the E-2 airborne early warning and control aircraft. In service since 1964, it is a considerable improvement over its predecessors.
It’s one of the Navy’s greatest force multipliers – an eye in the sky that can spot anything and everything from hundreds of miles away and guide other planes and ships into battle.
Like its predecessors, it is an essential part of the Navy’s air force and a vital part of any carrier air wing, so much so that it is still being upgraded to ensure a longer life.
Airborne Early Warning and Control
The mission of any Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft is to detect and track enemy aircraft, ships, missiles and vehicles from afar in order to keep friendly units informed of the threats they face in real time.
AEW&C aircraft also provide command and control, acting as a communications center to relay data, intelligence, orders, and communications between friendly units and commanders.
The US Navy’s first purpose-built airborne early warning aircraft was the E-1 Tracer, built by Grumman – Northrop Grumman’s predecessor – in 1956. The E-1 was based on the C-1 Trader, a carrier-based cargo plane. derived from the S-2 Tracker, an on-board anti-submarine warfare aircraft.
Instantly recognizable due to the large wing-shaped radar dome mounted on its roof, the E-1 saw extensive service in the early years of the Vietnam War, supporting combat air patrols and bombing raids north and in South Vietnam and warning friendly forces. of enemy MiG activity.
As an interim aircraft, the E-1 was only in Navy service for six years before the E-2 Hawkeye replaced it in 1964, although it was not officially decommissioned only in 1977.
The E-2 was a considerable upgrade, given its all-weather capability and turboprop engines. It was first used in Vietnam and quickly gained a reputation as the Navy’s electronic eyes. It quickly became a vital part of the carrier’s air wing and served in all theaters of naval operations.
There have been several E-2 variants, the E-2D being the newest and most modern. It first flew on August 3, 2007 and was delivered to the Navy in 2010.
The E2-D can reach speeds of 300 knots and fly up to 37,000 feet. Its crew consists of two pilots and three naval flight officers, who manage and monitor the electronics on board.
The AN/APY-9 all-weather radar mounted on its fuselage can scan 360 degrees, simultaneously detecting air and surface targets and suppressing electronic interference, according to its manufacturer, Lockheed Martin.
The E-2D also features an all-glass cockpit with fully electronic flight instruments, giving pilots greater situational awareness during flight and more precision when operating their avionics.
Other upgrades include an advanced identification friend or foe system, new mission computer and tactical workstations, and modernized communications and data link suites.
The E-2D’s modern systems allow naval flight officers aboard to coordinate the operations of multiple air and surface strike groups while away from the action itself.
“For 50 years, the E-2 has done something no other carrier-based aircraft can do, and that is bring a very capable radar system to 25,000 feet, hundreds of miles ahead of the carrier. , and manage airspace,” said Rear Adm. Randy Mahr, E-2 program manager from 2005 to 2008.
E-2Ds are especially important for Navy asset defense because they can track fast-moving targets like missiles, jets, and drones. E-2Ds are among the first aircraft to take off from an aircraft carrier at the start of any operation and are usually the last to land.
The Hawkeyes are so important that they continue to receive upgrades, the most notable of which is an in-flight refueling probe. Aerial refueling allows E-2Ds to fly for up to eight hours. It was resupplied by a manned tanker aircraft and the new MQ-25 Stingray aerial refueling drone.
So far, 55 E-2Ds have been delivered – 10 with an in-flight refueling probe – and another 23 have been ordered. The Navy asked Congress to order eight more, for a total inventory of 86 aircraft. The service’s ultimate goal is to have 22 E-2Ds operational at all times, and due to the importance of the aircraft, the Navy hopes to fly it well into the 2040s.
The E-2D is also heading overseas. Japan has ordered 13, three of which have been delivered, while France has ordered three, which are expected to be delivered by 2027.
Both countries already operate older E-2 models. France will operate its E-2Ds from its aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, while the Japanese E-2Ds will be based ashore.