Long one of the most recognizable aircraft to fly from the decks of U.S. Navy aircraft carriers because of the large rotodome perched atop its fuselage, the E-2 Hawkeye lives up to its nickname by providing all-weather airborne early warning to tactical commanders at sea. The airplane has served continously for more than half a century, its service taking it from Vietnam to the Global War on Terror, as well as on numerous deployments in support of drug interdiction operations. The first version of the Hawkeye to enter services was the E-2A, which joined the fleet in 1964. An upgraded computer system installed in forty-nine E-2As prompted their redesignation as E-2Bs in1969-1971, and the E-2C with upgraded engines and more advanced radar systems first flew in September 1972. Over the course of the ensuing decades, the E-2C has undergone numerous modifications, each incorporating features that significantly enhance the airplane’s capabilities. The E-2C surpassed one million flight hours in August 2004. The Advanced Hawkeye, designated the E-2D, was delivered to the fleet beginning in July 2010, and is expected to fully replace the E-2C by 2023.
The E-2C provides a range of capabilities that support command and control, notably 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
The Navy began work on airborne early warning during World War II, teaming with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to conduct experiments, codenamed Project Cadillac, to develop airborne early warning equipment that would enable the detection of enemy aircraft and ships at great distances. Modified TBM Avenger torpedo-bombers and later single-engine AF Guardians filled the role in the immediate postwar years until the development of the WF Tracer, which incorporated a TF Trader modified with twin-tails and a radome mounted atop the fuselage. Delivered to the fleet beginning in 1960, the WF Tracer (later redesignated E-1) was referred to as the "Stoof with a Roof" or "Willy Fudd" by those who flew it, and served until 1977.
While the WF/E-1 filled the operational requirements of the fleet, it was only intended as an interim measure until the introduction of a new airborne early warning aircraft built from the ground up for the mission. Thus, Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation engineers set to work designing an entirely new platform to meet the Navy’s requirements for an airplane that could reach a high altitude for greater detection range and house the equipment for the Air Tactical Data System (ATDS). In final form, Design 123 featured a wingspan of over 80 ft., a pressurized fuselage section, and a distinctive tail design with four vertical tail surfaces. Additionally, the 24 ft. diameter rotodome was more streamlined than the radome on the WF/E-1, helping to improve performance.
Initially designated the W2F-1 when ordered, the airplane was redesignated the E-2 Hawkeye in 1962, and two years later the first E-2As were delivered the Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 11, their first combat deployment to the waters off Vietnam coming in 1965. An upgraded computer system installed in forty-nine E-2As prompted their redesignation as E-2Bs in1969-1971, and the E-2C with upgraded engines and more advanced radar systems first flew in September 1972. Over the course of the ensuing decades, the E-2C has undergone numerous modifications, each incorporating features that significantly enhance the airplane’s capabilities. The E-2C surpassed one million flight hours in August 2004. The Advanced Hawkeye, designated the E-2D, was delivered to the fleet beginning in July 2010, and is expected to fully replace the E-2C by 2023.
During their service, Hawkeyes directed F-14 Tomcat fighters flying combat air patrol during the strikes against terrorist-related Libyan targets in 1986. In the early 1990s, E-2s provided airborne command and control for successful air operations as part of Operation Desert Storm, including 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 in the decade, 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 in the United States and several foreign countries.
The E-2C in the museum’s collection was flight delivered to Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola in May 2014, and is displayed in the markings of its last squadron, Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 123, the “Screwtops.”
|Manufacturer:||Northrop Grumman Aerospace Corp.|
|Type:||Airborne Command & Control, Battle Space Management.|
|Crew:||Two pilots and three naval flight officers|
|Powerplant:||Two 5,100 shp Allison T-56-A427 turboprop engines|
Length: 57 ft., 6 in.
Height: 18 ft., 3 in.
Wingspan: 80 ft., 7 in.
Normal: 40,200 lb.
Maximum Gross Take-Off: 53,000 lb.
Maximum Speed: 376 mph
Ceiling: 30,000 ft.
Maximum Range: 1,605 statute miles