05 May 2011

VAW-120 “Greyhawks”

The crew of Greyhawk 05 - a damn fine group of aviators!
This past week I spent a day with the “Greyhawks” of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron ONE TWO ZERO (VAW-120) – the Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS) for Hawkeye and Greyhound aircraft. As an FRP squadron, VAW-120 is tasked with training pilots, naval flight officers (NFOs), and aircrew and maintenance personnel for the Fleet.   
Receiving a briefing on the E-2D
training facility
Last year I had the great pleasure of attending the official roll-out of our Navy’s first E-2D.  The focus of my visit this year was to learn more about the E-2D’s operational capabilities and how we intend to employ this very capable and sophisticated aircraft in the Fleet. I also had the opportunity to fly in the aircraft and see its capabilities demonstrated first hand.
We kicked off the day with an E-2D capabilities brief followed by a thorough review of emergency and safety of flight procedures. We then changed into our flight gear and my all-junior officer crew and I briefed the details of the flight. I want to tell you right up front that I was very impressed and could not be more pleased with these talented aviators; they are professional, mature and clearly know what they are doing. They did not let the fact that they had a four-star admiral along for the ride distract them from their jobs.
PRs fitting my flight gear
My flight began in the Combat Information Center of the Advanced Hawkeye, where the NFOs demonstrated the technological improvements made to the sensors, communications suite, and software. These advancements enhance the aircraft’s ability to scan a larger area, detect smaller targets, process data about those targets faster, and transform all of that information into improved situational awareness across the multiple missions the Advanced Hawkeye can support. While the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye performs many of the same types of missions as its predecessor, the improved capabilities of the E-2D are a clear game changer for the Fleet. The quintessential mission of the Hawkeye, to be the eyes and ears of the Fleet, will not change; however, the Advanced Hawkeye’s long range sensors are network enabled, and serve a critical role in future air and missile defense networks.
Strapping in for my ditch and bailout drill
The E-2D also has improved detection and tracking of all maritime contacts which promotes seamless information flow among aircraft, ships, soldiers, civilians and command authorities who get that information to the assets that need it faster than ever before. With radar and identification systems that can detect targets in excess of 300 miles, operational warfare commanders are able to maintain an accurate picture of what is happening across a large area. Additionally, upgraded radios provide the clear and reliable communications necessary to keep commanders integrated with the battle space.
Living the life of a student naval aviator
The cockpit of the E-2D is truly impressive. When I moved to the copilot’s seat, I was able to interface with the weapons system via the new glass displays of the tactical operator station. These displays provide digital instrumentation for navigation and monitoring aircraft systems and enable the copilot to become fully integrated into the mission, expanding the mission capacity of the aircraft and crew. I remained in the cockpit for the return flight to Norfolk, where following an uneventful landing (a good thing!) we finished the flight with a thorough crew debrief and review of the day’s events.  
I was very impressed with the E-2D and all the Sailors at VAW-120. I watch Hawkeyes in the pattern at Chambers field every day and sometimes take for granted what is involved in getting them in the air. So it was very good for me to be part of a mission from start to finish and get a powerful reminder of what it takes to prepare these aircraft for flights, get them into the air, carry out the mission and get them back on deck to get ready to do it all again the next day. The VAW-120 team is made up of superb professionals and I was privileged to be able to fly with them.
All the best, JCHjr 

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