The Navy is preparing to deploy its new carrier-launched E2D Advanced Hawkeye early warning radar aircraft designed to protect ships from enemy ships, aircraft, missiles and other threats over long distances.
Slated to deploy on board the carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt sometime next year, the E2D Advanced Hawkeye is an upgraded version of the Cold War-era E2C Hawkeye aircraft which has been around for 50-years.
First introduced in 1964, the twin-turboprop airborne early warning aircraft was built to elevate radar detection up into the sky above the ships it was designed to protect. The concept of the plane is to extend the radar horizon beyond that which ship-based systems can detect with on-board radar systems.
The E2D Hawkeye completed what’s called initial operational test and evaluation this month and is training and preparing for deployment, said Capt. John Lemmon, program manager, E2C, E2D and C-2 aircraft.
The new E2D Advanced Hawkeye variant builds upon the mission sets of the platform and adds new technologies, Lemmon said.
“The E2D will be improving target detection and target tracking. We’re looking at a capability toward manned and cruise missile threats. It will retain the legacy E2C mechanically scanned radar and also have the ability to electronically scan so we can slow down in a particular sector of interest,” Lemmon said.
The E2D uses electronically-scanned radar and can also extend the detection range of the aircraft with upgraded processing technology, he added. The radar works by sending an electromagnetic signal or “ping” – and then analyzing the return to determine the shape, distance and dimensions to a given threat.
“The E2C was geared more toward protecting the carrier strike group during Cold War-type scenarios. It does have tremendous capability along with airborne early warning command and control with the data links and communications. E2D brings things to another level with respect to the processing that takes place allowing detection and tracking over water,” Lemmon said.
As a result of its improved technology, the E2D will have increased detection capability over land areas and in shallow-water or littoral areas.
“That transition between land and water and the littoral are can be challenging in terms of radar detection and tracking,” he said.
The E2D Hawkeye is engineered to protect carrier battle groups by extending early detection technology beyond the limits of what ships themselves can reach, Lemmon explained.
“When you have ship radars they are going to be limited in range by the horizon. As you elevate the sensor then you have a radar that is airborne out in front of the carrier strike group. Through a data link or LINK 16 you can take information that is being detected and tracked by the aircraft and have it data-linked back to the carrier strike group,” said Lemmon.
Through use of its processing and communications technology, the E2D can alert ship crews to far-away developments and threats. The platform can help a carrier strike group know exactly how far away from various threats it needs to be in order to minimize risk.
“You’ve provided the strike group commander a better operational picture of what is going on and how far away it is going on. You have allowed the decision makers more time to know what the threat is and how to react to it more appropriately,” he said.
The E2D has improved communications systems, voice and data links compared to the existing E2C variant. The E2D also has a new all-glass digital cockpit which includes a tactical fourth operator display.
“The E2D has upgraded real time on scene capability to improve the execution of the early warning, battle management and command and control mission areas including strike, maritime awareness, border and coastal protection, basic air traffic control search and rescue coordination efforts and any kind of humanitarian assistance,” Lemmon said.
The aircraft carries two pilots in the front and three naval flight officers on-board.
Overall, the Navy plans to acquire 75 E2D Hawkeye aircraft, 15 of which have already been delivered. They E2Ds have been doing land-based training and plan to conduct shipboard training as they move closer to their anticipated deployments.