The US Navy is hoping that the operational demonstration of a Northrop Grumman E-2C Hawkeye equipped with a Raytheon developed Surveillance Infrared Search and Track (SIRST) will enable the aircraft to play an expanded role in tactical and ballistic missile defence as part of the proposed follow-on Advanced Hawkeye programme.


Northrop Grumman and the USN say the dual-band SIRST sensor, in a nose-mounted turret, detected and tracked a ballistic missile target launched from the White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. The live fire and earlier simulated tests are the culmination of a five-year Office of Naval Research-funded science and technology programme to investigate infrared sensors for fleet wide detection and tracking of short- and medium-range theatre and ballistic missiles. "This demonstrates the E-2C's ability to expand its airborne surveillance mission into an active air defence role against ballistic missile," says Northrop Grumman.

SIRST is designed to use angle and ranging tracking to generate a real time calculation of a missile's point of launch and impact. The system will work with the future active electronically scanned array radar planned for Advanced Hawkeye and contribute via datalink to the USN's co-operative engagement capability. "Additional post flight data analysis will be performed this year," says Northrop Grumman. The SIRST results will establish the requirements for the Advanced Hawkeye.

The USN hopes to secure funding in the 2003 budget to launch development of Advanced Hawkeye, at the heart of which is the planned Radar Modernisation Programme.

Source: Flight International