The US Navy is poised to launch the initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) process for its new Northrop Grumman E-2D Advanced Hawkeye surveillance aircraft, with the airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) system type expected to achieve initial operating capability status in the fourth quarter of 2014.
Four E-2Ds have been transferred to the navy's Air Test and Evaluation Squadron One (VX-1), with IOT&E work to commence in the second quarter of fiscal year 2012, the service said. Activities will be performed at various locations in the USA, with the process due to conclude in the fourth quarter of FY2012.
© US Navy
"The key objectives for IOT&E are to determine the aircraft's operational suitability and effectiveness in the required mission, evaluate the platform's readiness for fleet introduction, and to assist in the determination of a full rate production decision, based on current programme system design and development requirements," the navy said.
The E-2D is equipped with a Northrop APY-9 surveillance radar, which introduces an increased detection range over the sensors installed in legacy versions of Hawkeye, and an improved capability against small targets such as cruise missiles.
© Northrop Grumman
Northrop has so far delivered seven E-2Ds, including two development aircraft, with these having accumulated a combined 3,600 development and flight test hours by 23 January. The company expects to receive a contract early this year for a fourth production lot of six aircraft, and late last month was awarded a $31.8 million deal to cover logistics support costs linked to the programme's low-rate initial production phase.
The US Navy's stated programme of record for the E-2D totals an eventual 75 aircraft. Northrop has, meanwhile, forecast international sales of 25-30 new-generation E-2Ds to existing Hawkeye customers and more to new users, James Mulhall, the company's business development director for AEW and multi-mission command and control aircraft, told IQPC's AEW and Battle Management conference in London last month.
Current international operators of the E-2 include Egypt, France, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan, as recorded by Flightglobal's MiliCAS database.