Northrop Grumman (NG) is promoting the E-2D Hawkeye AEW aircraft to Malaysia, as well as India and the UAE. NG attended the recent LIMA show in Langkawi, where it was publicizing the recent go-ahead for full E-2D production by the U.S. Navy. Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) is expected in 2015. The Navy’s program of record is for 75 E-2Ds; nine have been built for development and operational testing, and 11 more are now in production.
The U.S. government has cleared India, Malaysia and the UAE to acquire this advanced aircraft. However, an exportable version is yet to be developed. Most likely, it will have datalink and communications systems different from those of the U.S. Navy version . Meetings with the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) have been conducted regularly, although that service has yet to formulate its requirements, Tom Trudell, Northrop Grumman manager of international business development for the E-2/C2I IPT, told AIN.
The three cleared countries are expected to order a limited number of aircraft and might want their aircraft to be more versatile. Trudell argues that the E-2D is “already a versatile aircraft: it can also be employed on SAR, coastline protection, ATC support and disaster relief missions.” The E-2D lacks a land surveillance mode, but the AN/APY-9 radar with the ADS-18 AESA antenna can potentially offer this capability through software development. The current system does well in detection and tracking of airborne targets flying at low level over land, Trudell claims.
Should Malaysia choose the Hawkeye, it will benefit from the E-2D’s performance in maritime surveillance mode, according to Trudell. The Hawkeye’s crew can detect and track numerous large and small targets in congested waters such as the Straits of Malacca. Malaysia would also benefit from the E-2D’s eight-hour mission endurance and in-flight refueling system.
Saab is providing the main AEW competition in Malaysia, promoting the Erieye through local partner DRB-Hicom. The partners claim that the Erieye is more cost-effective, and note that maritime surveillance capability has now been added to the original Erieye system, which was developed for air surveillance by the Swedish air force.
Malaysia is also shopping for a maritime patrol aircraft, which is a high priority. The country will have to decide the extent to which maritime surveillance can be accomplished by that aircraft, as opposed to the AEW aircraft that is eventually selected.