Last Thursday I attended a ceremony for the rollout of our Navy’s first E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft. The Advanced Hawkeye is our Navy’s latest version and fourth iteration of the E-2 Hawkeye – a carrier-based, multi-mission, all-weather airborne early warning and command and control aircraft. The E-2 has been the “eyes of the fleet” since it first entered service in 1964; and while the physical characteristics of the airframe have changed very little over the past 50 years, the E-2D features a complete upgrade to the communications and avionics systems that vastly expand the Hawkeye’s capabilities.
One such improvement, and probably the most distinctive feature of the E-2D, is the 24-foot rotodome (antenna) attached to the top of the aircraft. The rotodome does not get many points for style, but it is one of the most important components on the airplane as it now provides our flight operators with a continuous 360-degree scanning capability and the ability to focus in on specific areas of interest.
The APY-9 is the E-2D’s primary sensor and probably the most sophisticated system on the aircraft. It has a surveillance range 250% larger than the E-2C. This state-of-the-art radar provides surface detection up to 200 miles and air detection beyond 250 miles from the surface to 10,000 feet. These enhancements allow the E-2D to assume a range of new missions from blue water surveillance to providing theatre air and missile defense in the littorals (it’s the first aircraft to detect cruise missiles launched from land), and battle management and control over land.
The new Advanced Hawkeye was delivered to Airborne Early Warning Squadron ONE TWO ZERO (VAW 120) where the “Greyhawks” will now learn more about the aircraft to unlock its true potential before training other Sailors to fly and operate the new equipment.
Although the journey has just begun and there is still much to learn, this is a great moment for naval aviation that we can all be proud of. The E-2D is a real game changer for our Navy; indeed, there’s no doubt about it.