The US Navy and Northrop Grumman have completed the preliminary design review (PDR) for a new aerial refuelling capability for the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye airborne early warning and control system aircraft.

Under a $226 million engineering, manufacturing and development phase contract awarded to Northrop in 2013, the company was contracted to design the systems necessary to integrate the capability into the aircraft, which will provide longer endurance for the E-2D.

The completion of the PDR means the company will now work towards the critical design review phase that will eventually see the aerial refuelling capability installed on new-build E-2Ds, as well as retrofitted on operational aircraft.

E-2D Advanced Hawkeye - Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman

Design changes include new seats, to enhance pilot field-of-view and decrease crew fatigue, formation lights for better visualisation and airspace orientation and enhanced software in the aircraft's flight control system, to assist pilots with aircraft handling qualities when refuelling.

Northrop says this extended range will help with the USA’s pledge to pivot its operations to the Asia-Pacific.

In June, the company was awarded a $3.6 billion multi-year contract from the USN for the E-2D, under a five-year acquisition that will bring the total number of the aircraft on order to 50, out of a total requirement for 75.

In addition to the US aircraft, Egypt, France, Japan and Taiwan between them have 28 earlier-model Hawkeyes in use.