The US Navy has awarded Northrop Grumman an almost $408 million contract to manufacture its first three of a planned 75 E-2D Advanced Hawkeye airborne early warning and control aircraft.

Announced on 9 July, the navy's order comes a month before Northrop is scheduled to conduct the debut flight of its first of two aircraft produced to support the E-2D programme's current system development and demonstration phase.

The Advanced Hawkeye was rolled out at the company's St Augustine site in Florida earlier this year.

 © Northrop Grumman

Production of the three pilot-phase aircraft will conclude in August 2010, says the navy, which expects to spend $15 billion on its new Hawkeye fleet.

To enter service in 2011, the E-2D is equipped with Lockheed Martin's electronically scanned APY-9 radar, which will boost the Hawkeye's ability to conduct maritime and overland surveillance tasks, while also increasing its air-to-air detection range.

The US Navy's current active inventory of Hawkeyes comprises more than 70 E-2Cs, according to Flight's MiliCAS database.

Related picture

Related stories