FRANCE'S PURCHASE of four Northrop Grumman E-2C Hawkeye airborne early-warning (AEW) aircraft is coming under fire from an influential parliamentary committee, which recommends buying additional Boeing Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft instead.

The finance committee wants the Hawkeye purchase to be dropped and has adopted an amendment to the 1996 Budget Bill cutting funding for two Navy E-2Cs.

According to the committee, "...cancellation of the Hawkeye aircraft could be offset by the acquisition of an extra AWACS aircraft, or maybe two". The French air force now operates four Boeing E-3 AWACS. France would either have to purchase secondhand Boeing E-3s or opt for the Boeing 767-based AWACS.

If the Hawkeye is cancelled, it would leave the French Navy with no AEW capability for its aircraft carriers. The finance committee, however, believes that shore-based aircraft can meet this requirement - a view certain to be vigorously contested by the navy.

Source: Flight International