The Navy announced Thursday the deployment next month to Japan of the most advanced versions of the workhorse E-2 Hawkeye early warning and control aircraft to shore up air defenses, as part of the ongoing rebalance of forces to the Pacific.
The Northrop Grumman Corp.-made E-2D Advanced Hawkeyes will serve as "digital quarterbacks" for friendly forces, using the latest data systems and subsystems for "collecting and distributing the tactical picture to command centers and other assets," Naval Forces Japan said in a release.
The improvements on the E-2D Hawkeyes over the E-2C models include the new A/N-APY9 radar, capable of both mechanical and electronic sweeping; an all-glass tactical cockpit; and upgraded mission computers and data links, the Navy said.
Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 125, the first Navy unit to receive the E-2Ds, is scheduled to deploy in February from Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan.
VAW-125 will replace VAW-115, which flies the older E-2C Hawkeye. VAW-115 will go to Naval Base Ventura County in Point Mugu, California, this summer to prepare for the transition to the E-2D, the Navy said.
The first version of the twin-engine Hawkeyes entered service in 1964, making the Hawkeyes the Navy's longest-serving carrier-based aircraft.
The deployment of the E-2Ds is part of the military's so-called "Pacific pivot," aimed at putting the most advanced assets in the region to ensure freedom of the seas, deter threats and act as a counter-balance to the rise of China.
U.S. military units in Japan have also been among the first to receive advanced equipment, including Boeing P-8A Poseidon submarine-hunting patrol aircraft.