Skyfire77 last edited by
>An E-2B of VAW-113 'Black Eagles' on the USS Coral Sea (CV-43) in 1979. | Photo: US Navy
First flying in 1960, the Grumman (later Northrop Grumman) E-2 Hawkeye provides airborne early warning for numerous armed forces around the world.
The idea of adding radar to an aircraft to increase the detection range came about soon after the development of the system, with the British developing two radar-equipped Vickers Wellingtons during WWII. One aircraft was used to monitor shipping against attacking Fw 200 Condors, while the other directed fighters against air-launched V-1 'Buzz Bombs'.
>Wellington Ic R1629 fitted with an experimental 1.5 m Air Controlled Interception (ACI) radar installation. | Photo: RAF
The US, meanwhile, was also working on its own airborne radars, with the US Navy enacting Project CADILLAC in 1944 to develop a counter for the Japanese kamikaze threat. In August of 1944 tests were conducted with a modified TBM Avenger, and the US Navy ordered production of the TBM-3W AEW variant, which entered service in March 1945. The Avenger was replaced by AEW variants of the AD Skyraider, which was in turn replaced by the Grumman E-1 Tracer.
>A USN Grumman TBM-3W Avenger from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 1 (VX-1) in flight over Boca Chica in the late 1940s. | Photo: US Navy
>An AD-5W AEW Skyraider on the deck of the USS Kearsarge (CVA-33) in the late 1950s. | Photo: US Navy
>A Grumman WF-2 Tracer from VAW-12 "Bats" launches from USS Franklin D Roosevelt (CVA-42) in 1961. | Photo: US Navy
In 1957, the US Navy selected Grumman as contactor for a new airborne early warning command and control aircraft (AEW C&C) which would interface with the Naval Tactical Data System being added to its ships. In contrast to the fixed radar antenna on earlier aircraft, the new design would feature a rotating radome (or "rotodome" as it came to be called). The Grumman W2F-1 (later redesignated the E-2) would be the first aircraft designed from scratch to be an AEW C&C. The E-2, named the Hawkeye, was designed with operations from smaller Essex-class carriers in mind, though as it turned out the type never operated from any Essex-class ships. The first E-2A flew on 21 October 1961, though it was not fitted with operation equipment and acted only as an aerodynamic test-bed. The first fully equipped Hawkeye flew in 19 April 1961, and the type was accepted for navy service in 1964. By 1965 however, reliability issue resulted in the fleet being grounded, and the Navy actually cancelled the contract after 59 aircraft were delivered. Poor ventilation of the radar systems resulted in heat build-up and system failures. Pressure from Congress led to the Navy and Grumman rushing to upgrade the E-2, with the early and unreliable drum memory computers being replaced by digital computers in addition to general upgrades to the plane's avionics. The resulting E-2B proved to be a marked improvement, and 49 of the E-2As were upgraded.
>E-2A #5 in flight. The dorsal rotodome is apparent. | Photo: US Navy.
>An E-2B Hawkeye of VAW-116 "Sun Kings" in flight during 1973. | Photo: US Navy
Despite the improvements made in the E-2B, the Navy recognized that it was a stopgap, and in 1968 a program was launched to produce a new model. Two E-2A test aircraft were modified with new radar and electronics, with BUNO 148712 being designated as YE-2C and 148713 as NE-2C respectively. Testing proved that the design was successful, and the E-2C was ordered into production, with 49 E-2Bs being modified to the new standard, as well as 28 new examples being built. Part of the upgrade was the addition of the Link 4A datalink, allowing Hawkeyes to vector F-14 Tomcats against distant targets.
>An E-2C Hawkeye from VAW-126 embarked on USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) in 1986. | Photo: US Navy
The E-2C received continual upgrades during the 1980s and 90s, with improved radar systems and new engines replacing outmoded equipment. Other changes included replacement of older mechanical navigation systems with laser ring gyros & GPS, the addition of modern MFDs in place of steam gauges, and updating 60s vintage computers with modern solid state units. A major upgrade program in the late 1990s known as Hawkeye 2000 incorporated an upgraded mission computer and Combat Information Center (CIC) workstations, as well as adding the new cooperative engagement capability (CEC) datalinks and a higher capacity vapor cooling system for the avionics. Staring in 2004 a new eight-bladed scimitar prop was added to the E-2C fleet. Made of carbon fiber with steel inserts, the new props produced less vibration and were more efficient, as well as improved maintenance, as the individual blades could be replaced.
>An E-2C from VAW-123 "Screwtops" flies past USS Enterprise (CVN-65) in 2007. | Photo: US Navy
In the early 2000s, Northrop Grumman began work on a new Hawkeye variant, which would incorporate an advanced radar and mission computer, a new radio suite featuring integrated satellite communications, flight management system, improved T56-A-427A engines, a glass cockpit and in-flight refueling. The new model, designated the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, would have the ability to guide SM-6 or AIM-120 missiles fired by other ships or aircraft to a target unseen by the launching vehicle. The Hawkeye's AN/APY-9 radar is also supposedly capable of detecting fighter-sized stealth aircraft such as the Su-57 'Felon' or the Shenyang J-31. The E-2D also has new turboprop engines and the eight-bladed scimitar props introduced on the E-2C.
>A Northrop Grumman E-2D Hawkeye of VAW-120 "Greyhawks" prepares to land at Naval Station Norfolk on 9 September 2019. This was the first E-2D Hawkeye with aerial refueling capability. | Photo: US Navy
In addition to the US Navy, the E-2 is in service with the Egyptian Air Force, French Navy, JASDF, Mexican Navy and ROC Air Force, and was formerly flown by the Israeli Air Force and Republic of Singapore Air Force. The Hawkeye was proposed to be replaced by the Common Support Aircraft, which would have consolidated aerial refueling, carrier on-board delivery, electronic surveillance/warfare, AEW C&C, and ASW roles under one airframe, but the CSA has yet to materialize.
>C-2A Greyhound of fleet logistics support squadron VRC-40 Rawhides in flight on 29 October 2009. | Photo: US Navy
A related development of the E-2, the C-2A Greyhound (commonly called "COD") was designed to deliver large cargo like jet engines to aircraft carriers underway. First flow in 1964, the C-2 shares the wings and tail of the Hawkeye, but has a widened fuselage with loading ramp. The COD was accepted into USN service in 1966, and in 1984 a new production run was ordered, with older models being phased out by 1987. In the early 2000s the fleet underwent a service life extension program (SLEP) which reinforced the center wing section, increasing projected life to 15,000 hours. The SLEP also added the engines and props from the E-2D, GPS and a ground proximity warning system, and crash-survivable Black Box flight data recorders. As with the E-2, the Greyhound was to be replaced by the CSA, but as that program faltered the Navy considered either contracting NG for a new run of C-2s, an expanded transport variant of the Lockheed S-3 Viking, or the Bell/Boeing MV-22. The Navy selected the V-22, with deliveries of the CMV-2B beginning in 2020.
>The first Bell-Boeing CMV-22B Osprey is shown during a reveal ceremony on 7 February 2020. | Photo: US Navy
ttyymmnn last edited by ttyymmnn
When I was living in Norfolk, I'd see E-2s overhead every single day. I think they were based at NAS Norfolk, while the fighter wings flew out of NAS Oceana. Seeing all that Navy air is what pushed me over the edge into airplane madness.
Boomers: hunt for subs with carrier-based aircraft
Zoomers: hunt for subs by asking you to sub in every video
ttyymmnn last edited by
@skyfire77 Derp. I saw E-2s. not E-3s. Rarely ever saw one of those outside an air show.
jayvincent last edited by
@skyfire77 I've seen the WE-2 Tracer in person a couple of times (If memory serves, at the Air Force Museum in Dayton and at the USS Intrepid museum in NYC) and they are even more un-aerodynamic looking in person. By comparison, the E2D is poetry in flight and will probably be the last Grumman designed bird still flying (if you don't count the Ag-cat which will live forever in general aviation).
Thanks for the post, it warms the magnetos of all those ex-Grummanites living out their retirement in sunny Florida, and mine, too!
Skyfire77 last edited by
@jayvincent Thanks, I'm glad to see so many av fans here, and it's interesting to hear personal memories of the subjects of my little ramblings.
I plan on doing more Grumman products in the future; there's a long history of great designs there, some of which need some love too.