The Grumman E-2 Hawkeye is an American all-weather, aircraft carrier-based tactical Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft. The twin turboprop aircraft was designed and developed in the 1950s by Grumman for the United States Navy as a replacement for the E-1 Tracer. The aircraft has been progressively updated with the latest variant, the E-2D, first flying in 2007.
The aircraft was nicknamed "Super Fudd" because it replaced "Willy Fudd" (the E-1 Tracer). In the present day, it is most commonly nicknamed the "Hummer" due to the distinctive sound of its twin turboprop engines.
In United States service, the Hawkeye provides all-weather airborne early warning and command and control functions for the carrier battle group. Additional missions include surface surveillance coordination, strike and interceptor control, search and rescue guidance and communications relay. An integral component of the carrier air wing, the E-2C uses computerized sensors to provide early warning, threat analysis and control of counteraction against air and surface targets. It is a high-wing aircraft with stacked antennae elements contained in a 24-foot (7.3 m) rotating dome above the fuselage.
The continuous improvements in early airborne radars by 1956 led to the concept of an airborne early warning and command and control aircraft. The first aircraft to perform this mission was the Grumman E-1 Tracer (a variant of the S-2 Tracker anti-submarine aircraft), which saw service from 1954 to the 1970s. The E-1's successor, the E-2 Hawkeye, was the first carrier-based aircraft designed from the outset for the all-weather airborne early warning and command and control function.
The original E-2C, known as the Group 0, became operational in 1973 and has been through several upgrade programs since then. The first of these was the E-2C Group I which replaced the older APS-125 radar and T56-A-425 engines with the improved APS-139 and T56-A-427. This version was soon followed by the further improved Group II which now featured the APS-145 radar. The Group II has been incrementally upgraded with new navigation systems, displays and computers culminating in the E-2C Hawkeye 2000 variant (sometimes referred to as Group III, although the term is no longer used as an official designation). The Hawkeye 2000 features the APS-145 radar with a new mission computer and CIC (Combat Information Center) workstations (Advanced Control Indicator Set or ACIS), and carries the U.S. Navy’s new CEC (cooperative engagement capability) data-link system. It is also fitted with a larger capacity vapor cycle avionics cooling system. A variant of the Group II with the upgrades to the mission computer and CIC workstations is referred to as the MCU/ACIS. All Group II aircraft have had their 1960s vintage computer-processors replaced by a mission computer with the same functionality but built using more modern computer technology. This is referred to as the GrIIM RePr (Group II Mission Computer Replacement Program, pronounced "grim reaper"). In 2007 and 2008 a hardware and software upgrade package is being added to Hawkeye 2000 aircraft that allows faster processing, double current trackfile capacity, and access to satellite information networks. Hawkeye 2000 cockpits are also being upgraded to include solid-state glass displays, upgraded weather detection systems, and GPS-approach capability. Testing for in-flight refueling modifications is also being conducted.
The latest version of the E-2, the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, is currently under development and the first two aircraft, "Delta One" and "Delta Two" are in flight testing. The E-2D features an entirely new avionics suite, including the new APY-9 radar, radio suite, mission computer, integrated satellite communications capability, flight management system, improved engines, a new "glass" cockpit and the ability to refuel in-flight. The APY-9 features an Active Electronically Scanned Array (electronically steered) radar in its rotodome. The E-2D will include provisions for either pilot to act as a Tactical 4th Operator, and have access to the full range of mission functions available to the CIC crew. First flight was 3 August 2007, with Initial Operational Capability (IOC) expected in 2011.
Since replacing the E-1 in 1964, the Hawkeye has been the "eyes of the fleet." Since its combat debut during the Vietnam conflict, the E-2 has served the US Navy around the world. Hawkeyes (from VAW-123 "Screwtops" aboard the USS America) directed F-14 fighters flying combat air patrol during Operation El Dorado Canyon, the two-carrier battle group joint strike against terrorist-related Libyan targets in 1986. More recently, E-2Cs provided the command and control for successful operations during the Gulf War, directing both land attack and combat air patrol missions over Iraq and providing control for the shoot-down of two Iraqi MiG-21 aircraft by carrier-based F/A-18s in the early days of the war. E-2 aircraft also have worked extremely effectively with US law enforcement agencies in drug interdictions.
During Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom all ten Hawkeye squadrons flew overland sorties. They provided critical battle management for attack of enemy ground targets, close-air-support coordination, combat search and rescue control, airspace management, as well as datalink and communication relay for both land and naval forces. During Hurricane Katrina three Hawkeye squadrons were deployed in support of urban relief efforts including Air Traffic Control responsibilities spanning three states, and control of Coast Guard and National Guard helicopter rescue units.
Hawkeye 2000s first deployed in 2003 aboard USS Nimitz with VAW-117 "Wallbangers" and CVW-11. U.S. Navy E-2C Hawkeyes have been upgraded with eight bladed propellers as part of the NP2000 program; the first squadron to cruise with the new propellers was VAW-124 "Bear Aces". The latest version can track more than 2,000 targets simultaneously (while at the same time, detecting 20,000 simultaneously) to a range greater than 400 miles (650 km) and simultaneously guide 40–100 air to air intercepts or air to surface engagements.
In late 2006, the US announced that it intended to sell three P-3C Orions equipped with the E-2C Hawkeye 2000 system to the Pakistan Navy. These aircraft will provide Pakistan with search surveillance, and control capability in support of maritime interdiction operations. Though once considered for replacement by the Common Support Aircraft, the original plan failed to materialize, and the E-2 will continue its role as the primary AEW aircraft of the USN in the near future.