Northrop Grumman has won a $1.3 billion multi-year procurement contract for 22 new improved E-2C Hawkeye 2000s for the US Navy and France. The deal secures continued production of the turboprop airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft through to early 2006.

The five-year contract covers 21 of the Hawkeye 2000 version of the E-2C for the US Navy and a single aircraft for the French navy to be supplied under a US Foreign Military Sales agreement. The order will keep the E-2 production line open beyond the mid-2001 delivery of the last of five Group 2 aircraft being built for the US Navy.

Northrop Grumman's Melbourne, Florida, plant is due to deliver the first Hawkeye 2000 to the USN in October 2001 and the final aircraft in the first quarter of 2006. The multi-year order calls for four aircraft to be delivered in 2002, and then at a rate of five a year from 2003-5. The aircraft will equip five US Navy squadrons.

The single Hawkeye 2000 for France, scheduled for delivery in 2003, will be its third following the delivery of one E-2C in December last year and a second last month. The French navy plans to upgrade the first two AEW aircraft to a similar standard to the third and has a long-term requirement for a fourth E-2C to support its new aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle.

The enhanced Hawkeye 2000 incorporates a new open architecture mission computer upgrade (MCU), advanced controller indicator set (ACIS) stations with enlarged 500mm (20in) displays, co-operative engagement capability (CEC) with data distribution system, satellite communications and improved cooling. It is planned to upgrade 54 Group 2 aircraft to Hawkeye 2000s, starting in around 2003-4.

Northrop Grumman is retrofitting five E-2C Group II aircraft with the first MCU and ACIS elements of the full Hawkeye 2000 package. Two aircraft have been delivered to NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, for evaluation, with the other three to follow by July. Technical evaluation at Point Mugu will start in August and operational evaluation in October.

CEC [?] is the second major element of the Hawkeye 2000 upgrade and has been under test since April last year. The system ties the E-2C system in with other airborne sensors, satellites or shipboard radars, including the US Navy's phased-array Aegis system.

The MCU and CEC provide a building block for more advanced infrared and electronically scanned radar sensors that are being considered for the proposed follow-on Future Hawkeye.

Source: Flight International