Northrop Grumman will resume flight testing of the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye carrier-based airborne early warning and control aircraft after a planned hydraulic line inspection. The first aircraft completed two flights on 3 and 6 August, both curtailed by weather, before the inspection.

The first aircraft is fully equipped with all the upgrades, including new Lockheed Martin APY-9 radar, but the mission system was not powered up for the initial flights, says Capt Randy Mahr, US Navy Hawkeye programme manager.

"At the end of October, we will turn the radar on to test the generators," says Mahr. But the primary testbed for the radar will be the second E-2D, which is scheduled to fly in November. "We will start radiating in November," he says.

The APY-9 uses space-time adaptive processing to reduce ground clutter and provides "true overland capability", Mahr says. A new Randtron antenna combines both 360º mechanical rotation and electronic scanning in azimuth, allowing the beam to dwell.

Flight testing of the E-2D will continue at Northrop's St Augustine, Florida facility to the end of 2008, when the aircraft will relocate to the US Navy's Patuxent River, Maryland, test centre to complete development testing, including carrier trials.

The first aircraft has Block 1 software, which provides 75% of the capability, says Mahr. Block 2, which adds the remaining 25%, is almost complete, he says. Development of an in-flight refuelling capability, which will extend missions to 8-9h, is to begin in fiscal year 2008, leading to flight tests in 2009 on an E-2C.

Northrop programme manager Tom Vice says the E-2D entered flight testing 680kg (1,500lb) under its planned maximum take-off weight, allowing a significant amount of growth. The company will deliver three pilot production aircraft in 2010 for operational testing ahead of entry into service with the US Navy in 2011.

Source: Flight International