The ‘digital quarterback’ of US Navy aircraft carrier air wings is celebrating its 15th year in flight

  • The E-2D Advanced Hawkeye is the US Navy’s newest airborne early warning and control aircraft.
  • It took its maiden flight on 3 August 2007 and was delivered to the Navy in 2010.
  • The E-2D is the Navy’s eye in the sky, tracking friends and foes from hundreds of miles away.

On August 3, the US Navy’s “Digital Quarterback,” the Northrop Grumman E-2D Advanced Hawkeye celebrated the 15th anniversary of its first flight.

E-2D is The latest version E-2 Airborne early warning and control aircraft. In service since 1964, it is a significant improvement over its predecessor.

It is the Navy’s greatest force multiplier—an eye in the sky that can detect everything and anything within hundreds of miles and guide other aircraft and ships into battle.

Like its predecessors, it is an essential part of the Navy’s aviation force and a vital component of any carrier air wing — so much so that it is still being upgraded to ensure a long service life.

Airborne early warning and control

Navy E-2A Hawkeye E-1B Tracer

An E-2A Hawkeye, left, and an E-1B Tracer near Naval Air Station Norfolk, Virginia in 1970.

US Navy


The mission of any Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft is to remotely detect and track enemy aircraft, ships, missiles and vehicles so that they can assess the threat they pose to friendly units in real-time.

AEW&C aircraft also provide command and control, acting as a communications hub to relay data, intelligence, orders and communications between friendly units and commanders.

It was the US Navy’s first purpose-built airborne early warning aircraft E-1 tracerBuilt in 1956 by Grumman – predecessor of Northrop Grumman. was based on the E-1. C-1 MerchantDerived from a carrier-based cargo plane S-2 TrackerA carrier-based anti-submarine warfare aircraft.

E-2C Hawkeye radar sailor

US Navy officials conduct aerial early warning and strike group coordination aboard an E-2C on November 11, 2008.

US Navy/MCS2 Clifford LH Davis


Instantly recognizable by the large, aerofoil-shaped radar dome on its roof, the E-1 saw extensive service in the early years of the Vietnam War, assisting in combat air patrols and bombing raids in North and South Vietnam, and warning friendly forces. Enemy MiG activity.

Being an interim aircraft, the E-1 remained in Navy service for only six years E-2 Hawkeye It was replaced in 1964, although it was not officially withdrawn from service until 1977.

The E-2 was a significant improvement given its all-weather capability and turboprop engines. It first saw service in Vietnam and quickly gained a reputation as the electronic eyes of the Navy. It quickly became an integral part of the carrier air wing and served in every theater of naval operations.

Advanced Hockey

Navy E-2D Hawkeye Marine Corps F-35

US Navy E-2D Hawkeye and US Marine Corps F-35 over the South China Sea, April 8, 2019.

US Navy/MCS3 Benjamin F. Davela III


There are several E-2 variants, with the E-2D being the latest and most modern. It first flew on 3 August 2007 and was delivered to the Navy in 2010.

The E2-D can reach a speed of 300 knots and fly up to 37,000 feet. Its crew consists of two pilots and three naval flight officers, who observe and monitor the ship’s electronics.

Its fuselage-mounted all-weather AN/APY-9 radar can scan a full 360 degrees, detect air and surface targets simultaneously and suppress electronic interference, according to its manufacturer. Lockheed Martin.

The E-2D also features an all-glass cockpit with fully electronic flight instruments, giving pilots greater situational awareness while flying and more precision when using their avionics.

Navy E-2D Advanced Hockey

The E-2D approaches the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in the Philippine Sea on September 25, 2021.

US Navy/MCS Seaman Mason Congleton


Other upgrades include advanced identification friend or foe systems, new mission computers and tactical workstations, and modernized communications and data-link suites.

The E-2D’s modern systems allow naval aviation officers on board to coordinate the operations of multiple air and surface strike groups while away from action.

“For 50 years, the E-2 has done something that no other carrier-based aircraft has been able to do and carry a very capable radar system to manage the airspace at 25,000 feet, hundreds of miles ahead of the carrier,” said Randy Maher, E-2 Program Manager from 2005 to 2008.

E-2Ds are especially important for protecting naval assets, as they can track fast-moving targets such as missiles, jets and drones. The E-2D is the first aircraft to take off from the carrier at the start of any operation and is usually the last to disembark.

E-2D Hawkeye USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier

An E-2D glides into launch position on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln on July 18, 2019.

US Navy/MCS3 Dan Snow


Hawkeyes are so important that they Continue to receive upgrades, the most notable of which was the Aerial Refueling Probe. Aerial refueling allows the E-2D to fly as long as possible eight hours. has been A crude tanker aircraft refueled and by new MQ-25 Stingray Aerial refueling drones.

So far, 55 E-2Ds have been delivered – 10 with aerial refueling probes – and another 23 have been ordered. The Navy asked Congress to order eight more for a total inventory of 86 aircraft. The service’s ultimate goal is to have 22 E-2Ds operational at any given time, and because of the aircraft’s importance, the Navy hopes to keep them flying well into the 2040s.

E-2D is also overseas. Japan has ordered 13, three of which have been delivered, while France has ordered three, which are expected to be delivered by 2027.

Both countries already operate the older E-2 model. France will operate its E-2D from its carrier, Charles de GaulleWhile Japan’s E-2D will be land-based.

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