US NAVAL Air Systems Command awarded Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation a $227 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract on September 27, for the design and supply of an in-flight refuelling (IFR)-capable E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft. Work is expected to be completed in January 2019.
Initial flight testing of a possible IFR capability for the E-2C Hawkeye and E-2D Advanced Hawkeye had been undertaken by the US Navy’s Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 20 (VX-20) at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, during 2004-2005. Further testing with VX-20 began in 2009, aimed at further identifying potential risk areas for an IFR-capable Hawkeye. Tests to date have involved a trials aircraft which has had an IFR probe merely bolted onto the top of the E-2C’s cockpit and it was not plumbed in to enable any fuel transfer.
In addition to consideration being given to retrofitting the existing US Navy E-2C fleet with IFR probes, the capability would also be added to the new E-2D. Little had been heard of the development programme over the last year or two and the completion date for yesterday’s contract implies that it will still be some time before an operational IFR-equipped Advanced Hawkeye enters service.
The US Navy envisage a requirement of 75 E-2D Hawkeyes, with the Defense Acquisition Board recommending full-rate production in January 2013, an Initial Operational Test & Evaluation (IOT&E) report was successfully completed in February 2013 and an Initial Operations Capability (IOC) is being planned for 2015. Alan Warnes