Alan Dron
Northrop Grumman is preparing to respond this summer to the UAE’s request for information for an airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft. The company is moving ahead with two measures that would considerably extend the endurance of its E-2D Advanced Hawkeye.

Initially talked about at least year’s Singapore show, a ‘wet wing’ is now under development, while investigations have been undertaken into putting an in-flight refuelling capability into the aircraft.

The prototype E-2D was rolled out at Northrop’s St Augustine, Florida, plant on 30 April and is expected to fly in August. The US Navy plans to spend $15 billion developing and buying 75 examples of the type, with an initial operating capability due in FY11.

The US and French navies are the only services to operate the type from aircraft carriers. Land-based operators do not require the folding-wing mechanism of the shipborne versions, which could thus be given substantially increased fuel capacity by incorporating wet wings.

On the way to reality
This development is “well on the way to reality” according to Jerry Spruill, director, international IPT, AEW international programmes, at the show yesterday. It would give the aircraft an 8h endurance.

Last autumn, tests were also undertaken to see if the E-2 could refuel from the US Navy’s main future tanker, the F/A-18 Super Hornet. However, the E-2’s rotating radar mounted above the fuselage, was never designed to cope with jet blast.

Northrop technicians mounted an instrumented mast protruding above the rotordome; the aircraft was then flown into position behind an F/A-18 and the pressures from its exhaust measured.

That showed that it would be possible to re-fuel from an F/A-18, with a refuelling probe mounted above the E-2’s cockpit. This refuelling capability would not be part of the baseline E-2D but could be retrofitted or added to aircraft on the production line at a later date, says Capt Tom Carroll Foreign Military sales IPT lead of Naval Air Systems Command.

Other potential export prospects for the E-2D include India (with which extensive discussions for carrier- and land-based E-2Ds have been held) and Malaysia. Work is underway to win export authorisation for the E-2D’s Lockheed Martin APY-9 electronically-scanned radar.

Source: Flight Daily News