Detect and Direct
The Navy's newest Hawkeye gets closer to the fight.
- By Preston Lerner
- Air & Space magazine, July 2008
Jarod Hodges / U.S. Navy
(Page 3 of 4)
Because the E-2 was originally designed for seagoing missions, its radar has trouble filtering out clutter on land and objects skimming over the ground, such as cruise missiles and helicopters. To enhance the Hawkeye’s flexibility, Northrop Grumman is developing an E-2D, with an APY-9 radar system that dramatically improves clutter rejection while expanding search volume by 250 percent. Also, unlike the current antenna, which scans 360 degrees every 10 seconds, the new one can pause to lock onto targets, which will provide the radar operators with even more information to digest. To spread the workload, the new design gives the copilot a scope of his own so he can participate in the E-2’s tactical mission when he’s not helping fly the airplane.
“We’re no longer a blue-water battle-group Navy,” says Captain Randy Mahr, the E-2 program manager. “We’re now a Navy that operates much closer to land, so we’ve expanded the E-2’s mission and designed it to be supportable through the middle of the 21st century.”
Shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Whorton was flying as the air control officer with VAW-117, the Wallbangers, when he heard a chilling radio call from a ground controller in Afghanistan.
“Banger, I have troops in contact,” said the controller, who authenticated his identity as American by providing Whorton with the proper security codes. “Require assets immediately.”
“He was very calm,” Whorton recalls of the controller, whose name and military branch remained unknown. “But every time he keyed the radio, I could hear incoming fire.”
Whorton relayed the news to his combat information center officer. Though Hawkeye naval flight officers are unable to see targets and activity on the ground, they have a line on all the airplanes in the area: current position, assigned target, weapons, fuel status, and so on. At the moment, a pair of Hornets armed with GBU-12 laser-guided bombs were coming off a tanker and the two other F/A-18s in the division were about to refuel. After getting an okay from his combat information center officer, Whorton dispatched the fighters to provide urgently needed close air support.
After radioing orders to the Hornets, Whorton watched four friendly aircraft symbols cross his radar screen. A few minutes later, he got a call from the lead Hornet: “We’re Winchester [out of ammunition] and RTB [returning to base],” the pilot reported.
“Do you require additional assets?” Whorton asked the ground controller.