Northrop Grumman hopes to extend E-2C production beyond 2006, with development of the improved Future Hawkeye as a follow-on to the Hawkeye 2000, due to enter service this year.

Initial funds have been allocated to test elements of the proposed Future Hawkeye, also known as the Hawkeye 2005, using a Lockheed Martin C-130 testbed. US Navy planning calls for full-scale engineering and manufacturing development to start in 2002.

"We're working with the USN on the Hawkeye 2005 study, building on the 2000 mission system. We would like to see the new configuration in 2006," says Louis Carrier, Northrop Grumman vice-president, airborne early warning.

This would give the option of continuing E-2C production at the end of the current multiyear buy of 21 Hawkeye 2000s. The last aircraft approved by the US Department of Defense is due for 2006 delivery.

The Hawkeye 2005 configuration would include the new Advanced UHF Radar, with space-time adaptive processing for electronic scanning, new mission computers, long-range infrared search and track and a glass cockpit, with the provision for the co-pilot to act as an extra radar operative.

A possible trade-off for continuing E-2C production might be to curtail the upgrade of Group 2 aircraft to Hawkeye 2000 standard, to start in 2003. There are about 50 that need upgrading, or replacing with new aircraft, to maintain the USN's E-2C fleet strength up to 2025. A major consideration will be the Group 2 aircraft's remaining structural life. Northrop Grumman is considering the upgrade and remarketing of retired US Navy Group 0 and 1 aircraft.

France and Taiwan meanwhile are being given the option of upgrading outstanding E-2C orders from Group 2 to Hawkeye 2000 configuration. The French navy has ordered a third aircraft for 2004 delivery, while Taiwan has two on order.

Source: Flight International