The E-2 Hawkeye is the Navy's all-weather, carrier-based tactical battle management airborne early warning, command and control aircraft. The E-2 is a twin engine, five crewmember, high-wing turboprop aircraft with a 24-foot diameter radar rotodome attached to the upper fuselage.
The Hawkeye provides all-weather airborne early warning, airborne battle management and command and control functions for the Carrier Strike Group and Joint Force Commander. Additional missions include surface surveillance coordination, air interdiction, offensive and defensive counter air control, close air support coordination, time critical strike coordination, search and rescue airborne coordination and communications relay. An integral component of the Carrier Strike Group air wing, the E-2C uses computerized radar, Identification Friend or Foe and electronic surveillance sensors to provide early warning, threat analysis against potentially hostile air and surface targets.
Advanced Hawkeye (AHE)
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 1964. 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 mission. 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 Navy around the world.
Hawkeyes directed F-14 Tomcat fighters flying combat air patrol during the two-carrier battle group joint strike against terrorist-related Libyan targets in 1986. In the early 1990s, E-2s provided airborne command and control for successful Coalition Air Operations during the first Arabian Gulf War. Directing both land attack and combat air patrol missions over Iraq, the E-2 Hawkeye provided air control for the shoot-down of two Iraqi MIG-21 aircraft by carrier-based F/A-18s in the early days of the war. Later during the 1990s, E-2s supported Operations Northern and Southern Watch over Iraq. E-2s also supported NATO operations over the former Republic of Yugoslavia, including Operation Deny Flight. Recently in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, E-2 Hawkeyes provided critical Airborne Battle Management and Command and Control functions supporting numerous Close Air Support and Battlefield Interdiction missions. E-2s also have worked extremely effectively with U.S. law enforcement agencies in drug interdictions operating from bases both the United States and several foreign countries.
The current version of the Hawkeye, the E-2C, became operational in 1973, and surpassed one million flight hours in August 2004. The aircraft has undergone several upgrades to its active and passive sensors, engines and propellers. The newest variant of the E-2C (Hawkeye 2000) with its new mission computer, improved radar displays and Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC), combined with the shipboard Aegis weapon system, will form the cornerstone of future sea based Theater Ballistic Missile Defense (TBMD).
Variants of the E-2C Hawkeye are also flown by the Egyptian Air Force, Japanese Self Defense Air Force, Republic of Singapore Air Force, Taiwan Air Force, and the French Navy.
Advanced Hawkeye (AHE), the newest variant of the E-2 aircraft platform, is currently in development and scheduled to be introduced to the Fleet in 2011. Using the E-2C Hawkeye 2000 configuration as a baseline, AHE will feature a state of the art radar with a two generation leap in capability and upgraded aircraft systems that will improve supportability and increase readiness. Key AHE program objectives include improved battle space target detection and situational awareness, support of Theater Air and Missile Defense (TAMD) operations, and improved Operational Availability. The AHE mission will be to provide advance warning of approaching enemy surface units, cruise missiles and aircraft, to vector interceptors or strike aircraft to attack, and to provide area surveillance, intercept, communications relay, search and rescue and strike and air traffic control. The AHE is intended to meet airborne early warning surveillance, battle management and TAMD needs as the Navy develops its Sea Power 21 concepts in support of Joint Vision 2020.