After a $3 billion development program lasting 12 years, the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye AEW&C aircraft is making its first carrier deployment. “We’ve met every technical and cost milestone,” claimed Jay Mulhall, director of AEW business development for Northrop Grumman. Speaking at the Airborne ISR Conference in London, organized by Defence IQ, Mulhall gave new details about the land-based version of the E-2D that is being offered to international customers.
U.S. Navy squadron VAW-125 has embarked its five Advanced Hawkeyes on the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), which is now en route to the Middle East. The Navy will receive its 17th E-2D this week; a total of 26 are in a $3.6 billion multi-year procurement (MYP) contract covering the FY2014-FY2018 period. Although outwardly similar to the E-2C Hawkeyes that they replace, the E-2Ds have new radar, ESM, communications and avionics that allow additional missions such as overland surveillance and network coordination.
Northrop Grumman is contracted to develop a fixed probe system for air-to-air (AAR) refueling capability on U.S. Navy E-2D fleet, for service beginning in 2020. This will extend endurance beyond the four to five hours available today. But for international customers who do not practice AAR, the company is developing a full "wet" wing that will provide 8 to 9 hours' endurance, Mulhall said. Japan is the first confirmed export customer of the E-2D, having chosen the Advanced Hawkeye last November in preference to the Boeing Wedgetail. The aircraft has also been promoted to India, Malaysia and the UAE.
Mulhall claimed that the open system architecture of the E-2D permits easier integration of the different datalinks, radios and satcom that an international customer may specify. He further noted that the MYP contract has built-in flexibility to accommodate export orders, thus “allowing international customers to leverage the $1.2 billion investment” over the period.
Unlike the radars on other AEW aircraft, the E-2D’s Lockheed Martin APY-9 operates in the UHF band. According to Mulhall, this provides unique advantages such as enhanced detection of low radar-cross-section threats, and performance in bad weather. “The E-2D can defend the carrier strike group against the most lethal threats in the world,” he told the conference.