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A program update on the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye was provided today at the AEW and Battle Management conference in Amsterdam. Providing the update was Northrop-Grumman’s VP for AEW &BM C2 programs, Jim Culmo and Hawkeye/Greyhound Program Manager, CAPT Shane Gahagan, USN.

Culmo noted that the company is on-track to deliver three pilot production E-2Ds to the U.S. Navy in 2010 and that manufacturing of the first two Low-Rate Initial Production aircraft is also progressing well. “We’re exceedingly pleased with where we are in the flight test program,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Shane Gahagan, Hawkeye Greyhound program manager. “The AN/APY-9 radar is performing very well and will bring to the fleet a significantly increased ability to operate in a highly cluttered environment while providing critical 360-degree coverage.”

The E-2D was designed to provide the warfighter with enhanced capabilities required to meet emerging threats such as low-flying ASCMs in the high clutter near- and overland environment.  With the newly developed AN/APY-9 Electronic Scan Array (ESA) radar, Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) system, Electronic Support Measures (ESM), and off-board sensors, in concert with surface combatants equipped with the Aegis combat system, the E-2D will have the capability to detect, track, and defeat cruise missile threats at extended ranges. It will also provide unparalleled maritime domain awareness including airspace control for manned and unmanned assets, monitoring of surface movements, civil support, and command and control of tactical forces.

The combined radar modes work together to provide continuous, 360-degree air and surface scanning capability, allowing flight operators to focus the radar on select areas of interest. “The AN/APY-9 can ‘see’ smaller targets and more of them at a greater range than currently fielded radar systems,” Culmo said. He added that the E-2D’s systems, including radar long-range detection, “are exceeding key performance specifications.”

Which brings me to a point of interest.  Given the direction MDA is headed in expanding our BMD capabilities at the theater and regional levels by looking at alternative platforms and capabilities – such as ISR assets like UAVs to improve I&W, perhaps it ought to widen the aperture a bit and look at the capabilities the E-2D is bringing to the fight?  One of the hallmarks of missile defense is the wide-ranging field of play within which the threat is engaged.  As such, BMD cannot be platform-centric since we re fast approaching the point where the interceptors will outrange their supporting sensors (when launched from the same platform).  Instead, BMD, especially the sea-based adjunct, will become a complex fire control system made up of netted sensors and shooters.

Now, look again at the quote above – “The combined radar modes work together to provide continuous, 360-degree air and surface scanning capability, allowing flight operators to focus the radar on select areas of interest.”  That is the advantage of an ESA.  The ability to manage the radar energy is literally light years ahead of what we had in the E-2C.  In a theater fight, it makes me wonder what capabilities it might bring for detNorthrop Grummanection of mobile platforms and the launch/boost phase of SR/MRBMs — what capabilities the E-2D’s advanced networking might bring to networking shooters that are BVR of one another and yet not dependent on what are becoming increasingly vulnerable satellite-based networks.

To be sure, the dance card for the Advanced Hawkeye is likely already crowded and on a relative scale, advanced cruise missiles are a greater threat in a larger sense to US and allied naval forces – for now.  Nevertheless, it would pay huge dividends down the road if we found a nascent BMD capability already resident in the system, or, one that could be coaxed forth with relatively smaller expenditures of capital.  The force multiplier effect in combination with sea- and eventually, shore-based Aegis BMD could conceivably pay huge dividends.

How about it MDA?  Navy?

(Source: Northrop Grumman)

Crossposted at USNI blog

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