U.S. Approves Hawkeyes for France and Ospreys for Indonesia

 - July 7, 2020, 12:59 PM
One of Flottille 4F’s current E-2Cs is seen during operations in May 2018 from the U.S. Navy carrier George H.W. Bush. The three aircraft are to be replaced by a similar number of the Advanced Hawkeye. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

In a round of notifications to the U.S. Congress issued on July 6, the State Department has approved the potential sales of aircraft equipment to France (Northrop Grumman E-2D Advanced Hawkeye), Indonesia (Bell Boeing MV-22B Block C Osprey) and Lithuania (Lockheed Martin/Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawk).

France signaled its intentions to buy the E-2D airborne early warning aircraft as a replacement for its current E-2C Hawkeyes in September 2019. The potential sale is estimated at “around $2 billion” and covers three completely equipped aircraft, plus four spare Rolls-Royce T56-427A engines, spare communications systems, and a joint mission planning system. The deal also includes two Common Systems Integration Laboratories, one to be established in France with the other at Northrop Grumman’s facility at Melbourne, Florida, where the Advanced Hawkeyes are manufactured. Engineering and logistics support is included, along with documentation and crew training.

France’s Marine Nationale currently has three E-2Cs, of which two are normally assigned to the air wing aboard the navy’s sole aircraft carrier, Charles de Gaulle. The third is normally ashore to acts as a spare and for training. The small fleet is operated by Flottille 4F, based at Lann-Bihoué in Brittany, which stood up to operate the type in 2000. French E-2Cs were employed operationally over Afghanistan and Libya, and were upgraded with NP2000 propellers.

Although externally similar, the incoming E-2Ds introduce a new avionics suite with an APY-9 radar that has three electronically-scanned antenna arrays in a rotating rotodome. If the sale proceeds as expected, France will become the second overseas operator of the E-2D, following the Japan Air Self-Defense Force. The French navy often conducts joint carrier operations with the U.S. Navy, and in 2018 both E-2Cs and Rafale M fighters operated from USS George H.W. Bush while Charles de Gaulle was in dock for a refit.

Also with an estimated value of $2 billion is the potential sale of eight MV-22B tiltrotor aircraft and associated equipment to Indonesia. Included is a total of 24 Rolls-Royce AE1107C engines, and the Ospreys would be equipped with AAQ-27 forward-looking infrared, AAR-47 missile warning systems, APR-39 radar warning receiver sets, and ALE-47 chaff/flare dispensers. Planned armament comprises the FN America M240D 7.62mm machine gun and the Browning GAU-21 0.5inch heavy machine gun. A support package is also included. The Ospreys would provide Indonesia’s armed forces with greater defensive reach in the increasingly tense Asia-Pacific region.

In recent years Jakarta has increasingly turned to the U.S. for weapons, following the lifting of an arms embargo in the mid-2000s. The air force’s primary fighter is the Lockheed Martin F-16, of which an initial batch of 12 F-16A/Bs was acquired in the mid-1980s. During the embargo, Indonesia turned to Moscow, which supplied a number of Sukhoi Su-27/30s, but in the mid-2010s the air force acquired 24 ex-USAF F-16C/D Block 25s, which were upgraded to near-Block 52 standard prior to delivery.

Indonesia had signed to buy 11 Sukhoi Su-35s, but this barter deal was terminated in March this year as a result of stalled negotiations with Russia, and political pressure from Washington. The acquisition of more F-16s—probably to F-16V standard—seems likely in the near future.

Lithuania’s approved request covers the supply of six UH-60Ms in standard U.S. Government configuration with AAR-57 common missile warning system, FLIR Systems Talon MMS electro-optic turret, and two M240D door guns per aircraft. The country’s small air force currently relies on Soviet-era Mil Mi-8s for its air mobility capability.