Disclaimer: I am not nor have I ever been an employee of N-G.  Yes, I have over 3,000 hours in their E-2C and it is with that time, and the experiences it has brought across a wide playing field that the following is submitted. – SJS

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The final deliveries of supplies and materials for the venerable E-2C Hawkeye will take place this year,  thirty-six years after the baseline model reached IOC and seventeen years after the Group II’s IOC.  The replacement, the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye is a major advance in capabilities available to maritime forces that is unmatched anywhere by any other platform.  But it’s rationale isn’t found in posting bragging rights – there is a real and growing threat to maritime forces whether the water is blue, green or brown:

“Advanced cruise missiles don’t get much press today. They should, because several very capable types have been around quite a while. Land-attack cruise missiles like a French-built missile called the Scalp have been sold in Europe and the Persian Gulf under the name Black Shaheen. It’s big, stealthy, and flies about 500 mph. Then there
are the anti-ship cruise missiles. Just about every nation with a coastline has them. It takes constant vigilance with a big and high-powered radar search volume to pick out cruise missiles flying over land or water.”

(ed. …and don’t think the Russians have entered into a joint partnership with the Indians on development of the Brahmos supersonic cruise missile out of any altruistic leanings either – SJS)
“The US Navy has prepared to meet the threat with a little-known program with the far too bland name of Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air (NIFC-CA). What that means is the Navy is pushing the technology to link fire control for the missiles mil_cec_concept_lgcarried by its ships and airplanes into a network that can pick out and shoot enemy cruise missiles when they are farther away. Cooperative engagement capability is part of the NIFC-CA, and that’s where E-2D comes in.

What the Navy says publicly is that the E-2D crew can keep track of many more targets at once in an area 300% greater than the older plane. Work stations inside have all the links needed to make NIFC-CA effective in its expanded mission: flat-screen glass displays, satellite communications and the latest secure networking.

Although the whole NIFC-CA piece is still maturing, the anti-cruise missile capabilities in E-2D work with systems ready today. None question the Navy’s need for E-2D – the threat is too compelling. Links to the Army’s ground-based Patriot air and missile defense batteries are designed in…More links to surface ships come later.”

The E-2D was approved for LRIP of 3/yr in 2008 and 2009, completed its 125th flight milestone this last July and is on track for Milestone C this spring.  Compared with the original E-2A and the E-2C developments, both of which encountered major developmental problems and ultimately failed their OPEVALS, the E-2D has successfully completed its Operational Assessment with over half the flight time involved with radar operations – and it was successfully tracking towards an IOC of 2011.  So what’s the problem?

‘$200m+ Congressional Cut to E-2D Advanced Hawkeye Puts 350 U.S. Jobs At Risk’

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla., Feb. 6, 2009 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Calling a $200-plus million cut to production procurement for the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye a “high risk” move that will put U.S. jobs and global security at risk, Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) and its 280-member supplier team is calling on Congressional leaders to restore the funding. The reduction in funding jeopardizes the building of production aircraft initially planned in fiscal years 2009 and 2010.

“We’ve just completed a very successful Operational Assessment with our two E-2D Advanced Hawkeye System Development & Demonstration (SD&D) aircraft and we are on schedule with our three pilot production aircraft. There is a great sense of urgency today to restore production procurement dollars into the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye budget-otherwise hundreds of U.S. jobs will be lost and taxpayers will not derive the benefit of economies of scale,” said Tom Vice, sector vice president for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems sector. “We have the manufacturing capacity now to accommodate up to ten E-2D’s a year, which certainly supports the Navy’s plan to contract for 70 more aircraft. More importantly, these budget cuts may delay Initial Operating Capability beyond the Navy’s current program of record.”

This is how it starts – the death by a thousand cuts.  The ‘it’s only one airplane a year for two years’ mentality will only increase overall costs, delay IOC and virtually guarantee a period of spares shortages and cannibalization early in the aircraft’s life – just like it did with the E-2C in the late 70′s and early 90′s.  As a good friend and fellow VAW CO wrote me earlier today:

“Sigh, this is very similar to what happened when Group II’s first got fielded. We did not buy enough aircraft up front, and as an extra added bonus it meant the Navy did not have a lot of spares. The result was the Group II squadrons gave up engines and other things and sat with hulk when they got home-so the other squadron could make enough aircraft to go on cruise.
Of course in those days the buy was six per year.”

I remember those days.  I remember coming back from 7-9 month deployments and spending the post-cruise period frantically stripping boxes, engines, even outer wing panels to help a sister squadron get ready for deployment.  I remember going through workups with critical pieces of equipment tagged out because their replacements were unavailable.  When you finally got the replacements – a week before deployment if you were lucky, you just practiced as best you could on the trans-Lant and hoped to be ready when on the line in the Med or IO.

As we see billions thrown at saving banks from their own egregious behavior, as we throw millions down ratholes labeled for honey bee factories, parking garages in Utah, and “pig odor research” we see DoD hit with budget cuts across the board, for forces that require re-equipping and rearmament to face a growing multitude of threats on a variety of fronts.

Integrated air and missile defense is a must for operations in the littorals, especially for assets with limited self defense capabilities and which depend on an extended umbrella from surface- and air-assets operating in associated or direct support.  In a future marked by proliferation of cruise missiles of all sorts – land-attack, anti-ship, supersonic, stealth, sea-skimming and high-diving, the requirement for a platform that is able to pick these difficult targets out of the clutter presented by the land-sea interface and overland environments is a firm “must-have.”  Yet it is not enough to just pick the targets out of the clutter – a system for the future must be able to transmit fire-control quality data over secure networks and ensure that everyone – sensor, shooter, evaluator is working from a common picture.

The E-2D not only matches up well in that arena, it is a pre-requisite if we expect to successfully execute the maritime strategy.

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2 Comments

  1. Maybe if Bethpage was still cranking out airplanes this might not have happened………..

    However I worry that within the Navy-the impetus to do what needs to be done and save the line and the total aircraft buy will not be done-particularly with the current crop of aviation leadership we have.

    Its really sad when you consider for the cost of 1 F-22 you can by three or four E-2D’s. What’s up with that?

  2. Andy (JADAA)

    :???:
    Sigh, wish it wasn’t always thus, but we both know that this kind of budgetary chicanery goes way, way back. A very, very long time ago, when I was first formally involved in Naval Aviation, I remember the shock and horror when someone actually listened to the supply types and it was discovered that indeed they were right: A brand new aircraft program had no spares, only airframes! A few years later and my squadron was involved in daily “world-wide searches” of every AIMD supply parts bin for parts for one of our aircraft types; a dance that the four other squadrons using the type around the world engaged in on a daily basis.

    VR,
    Andy

    These proposed cuts are coming early in the cycle; here’s hoping the right Congresscritters are listening, for everyone’s sake. The world is still a very, very dangerous place and wishing doesn’t make it any less so. Thanks for pointing this out SJS.

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