Fu­ture Su­per Car­rier

Avi­a­tion el­e­ment of the US Navy’s new ‘Ger­ald R Ford’-class car­ri­ers

Vayu Aerospace and Defence - - News - Sayan Majumdar

Vayu’s cor­re­spon­dent Sayan Majumdar writes on the Avi­a­tion el­e­ment of the US Navy’s new Ger­ald R Ford- class car­ri­ers on which he was briefed dur­ing his visit to the Euron­aval Show in Oc­to­ber 2016. This new gen­er­a­tion air­craft car­rier with rev­o­lu­tion­ary EMALS sys­tem will em­bark new gen­er­a­tion F- 35Cs along­side E- 2D Ad­vanced Hawk Eyes, a for­mi­da­ble com­bi­na­tion.

Also: Rafael’s Litening- 5; Irkut at LIMA; Sec­ond Yasen- class Sub­ma­rine; Saab RBS 70NG; Pi­la­tus in 2016; 500th Typhoon; Ronneby’s Gripens; Greek Recce Phan­toms; Frisian Flag 2017; Red Flag 17-2.

At the Euron­aval show in Oc­to­ber 2016, this Vayu cor­re­spon­dent came across a model of the United States Navy’s new gen­er­a­tion Ger­ald R Ford- class air­craft car­rier, proudly dis­play­ing the fu­tur­is­tic Gen­eral Atomics Elec­tro-Mag­netic Air­craft Launch Sys­tem (EMALS), ca­pa­ble of launch­ing all types of car­rier as­sets from Air­borne Early Warn­ing & Con­trol (AEW&C) plat­forms through multi-role fighters to Un­manned Com­bat Aerial Ve­hi­cles ( UCAVs). Not sur­pris­ingly to this writer, the air wing of the lead war­ship Ger­ald R Ford (CVN-78) dis­played mod­els of com­bat proven avi­a­tion as­sets, namely the Boe­ing F/A-18E/F Su­per Hor­net multi-role strike fighter and the Northrop Grum­man E- 2C/ D Hawk­eye/ Ad­vanced Hawk­eye Air­borne Early Warn­ing & Con­trol Sys­tem (AEW&C) plat­form for as­sured pro­tec­tion and strate­gic plus tac­ti­cal power pro­jec­tion. Newer plat­forms are likely to com­ple­ment the com­bat proven ones in the fore­see­able fu­ture.

The ‘ strike- ori­ented heavy duty’ multi-mis­sion F/A-18E/F Block II Su­per Hor­net is an up­grade of the com­bat-proven night- strike F/ A- 18C/ D that pro­vided the US Navy with a plat­form that has range, en­durance, and ord­nance car­riage ca­pa­bil­i­ties com­pa­ra­ble to the A-6 In­truder ‘heavy-duty’ strike plat­form and, as per man­u­fac­turer claims, in­cor­po­rates lower Radar Cross Sec­tion ( RCS) tech­nol­ogy and other sur­viv­abil­ity en­hance­ments from the out­set. Still it is rea­son­able to de­duce that sur­viv­abil­ity of the Su­per Hor­net plat­form chiefly rests on ex­cel­lent com­bat proven AN/ALQ-124 In­te­grated De­fen­sive Coun­ter­mea­sures sys­tem (IDECM) sys­tem that in­cludes the ALE-47 coun­ter­mea­sures dis­penser, the ALE-55 towed de­coy (which can trans­mit jam­ming sig­nals based on data re­ceived from the IDECM) and the AN/ALR-67(V)3 Radar Warn­ing Re­ceiver (RWR) pro­vid­ing co­or­di­nated sit­u­a­tion aware­ness and man­ag­ing the on- board and off-board de­cep­tion coun­ter­mea­sures, ex­pend­able de­coys, plus sig­nal and fre­quency con­trol of emissions.

The US Navy in­ducted the first op­er­a­tional F/A-18E/F squadron (VFA115) in Septem­ber 2001, with Su­per Hor­nets de­ployed on board the USS Abra­ham Lin­coln (CVN-72) in July 2002. ‘Bap­tism by fire’ fol­lowed shortly there­after when, in Novem­ber 2002, the air­craft made its com­bat en­try, strik­ing at air de­fence in­stal­la­tions in South­ern Iraq with the Global Po­si­tion­ing Sys­tem GPS-guided JDAM. Sub­se­quently the air­craft was also de­ployed as part of Op­er­a­tion Iraqi Free­dom in March 2003, and has seen ex­ten­sive com­bat em­ploy­ment since.

F/A-18E/F air­craft are of larger size than ear­lier Hor­nets, with big­ger wing

area, and thereby carry more in­ter­nal fuel for ef­fec­tive in­crease of mis­sion range by 41% and en­durance by 50% (can be fur­ther en­hanced with in-flight re­fu­elling pro­ce­dures and ‘com­bat-rated’ drop tanks). Their high fuel-frac­tion in com­bi­na­tion with greater weapons-load en­able Su­per Hor­nets to make fewer sor­ties into the tar­get area and em­ploy more ‘dogs legs’ or tac­ti­cally de­sir­able routes, re­sult­ing in less threat ex­po­sure and en­hanced sur­viv­abil­ity. For the same rea­son, the air­craft car­ries the com­plete com­ple­ment of ‘smart’ air-to-ground weapons, in­clud­ing the new­est pre­ci­sion-GPS/in­er­tial-guided fam­ily of joint weapons such as Joint Direct At­tack Mu­ni­tions (JDAM), Joint Stand-Off Weapon (JSOW) and Lock­heed Martin AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Sur­face Stand­off Mis­sile (JASSM), so as to stay out of the heav­i­est ground- based de­fences while per­form­ing the strike role and dec­i­mat­ing coun­ter­force in­fra­struc­tures. A to­tal of 8,000 kg of ex­ter­nal load in­clud­ing nu­clear and con­ven­tional ord­nance and as­so­ci­ated sen­sors are car­ried on eleven weapon sta­tions in­clud­ing two ad­di­tional wing store sta­tions.

Two Gen­eral Elec­tric F414-GE-400 tur­bo­fan en­gines pro­vide the Su­per Hor­net with com­bined thrust of 44,000-pounds thrust in af­ter­burner. Its nine- to- one thrust-to-weight ra­tio is one of the high­est of any mod­ern fighter en­gine ex­tant, seen as nec­es­sary in or­der to re­tain air com­bat po­ten­tial even with sig­nif­i­cant strike pay­load. In the sub­sonic regime, the per­for­mance of F/A-18E/F is “at par or bet­ter than” the ba­sic F/A-18C/D. At high An­gles-of-At­tack (AoA) the sym­met­ri­cally loaded F/A-18E/F boasts su­pe­rior roll per­for­mance and bet­ter han­dling char­ac­ter­is­tics in ab­sence of AoA lim­i­ta­tions. The F414 com­bines ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy with the proven de­sign base of its F404 pre­de­ces­sor. De­sign pri­or­ity was ac­corded to crit­i­cal fea­tures such as dura­bil­ity, re­li­a­bil­ity, and easy main­te­nance. The en­gine en­tered pro­duc­tion in late 1998, and has ac­cu­mu­lated in ex­cess of 3,000,000 flight hours, hav­ing en­tered op­er­a­tional ser­vice in the year 2000 on USN F/A-18E/F Su­per Hor­nets. Lat­est ma­te­ri­als and cool­ing tech­niques al­low for higher tem­per­a­tures and pres­sures with­out sac­ri­fic­ing com­po­nent life. The F414 con­sists of six fully in­ter­change­able mod­ules for easy main­te­nance while an In-flight En­gine Con­di­tion Mon­i­tor­ing Sys­tem (IECMS) keeps pi­lots in­formed about en­gine pa­ram­e­ters, al­low­ing them to take ac­tion if nec­es­sary.

Pri­mary Sen­sor

The Su­per Hor­net’s pri­mary sen­sor is the Raytheon AN/APG-79 Ac­tive Elec­tron­i­cally Scanned Ar­ray (AESA) radar, the build­ing block of which is Gal­lium Arsenide (GaAs) Mono­lithic Mi­crowave In­te­grated Cir­cuit (MMIC) us­ing litho­graphic-type pro­cesses to pro­duce mi­crowave cir­cuits on chips at very high lev­els of in­te­gra­tion. The light an­tenna, with the ar­ray weigh­ing only 95-pounds, re­port­edly has an ex­tremely low fail­ure rate re­quir­ing lit­tle to no main­te­nance over decades. The AN/APG-79 radar en­ables air- to- air tar­get de­tec­tion and track­ing at long ranges and pro­vides higher res­o­lu­tion Syn­thetic Aper­ture Radar (SAR) air-to-ground map­ping while it­self re­main­ing largely im­mune to Elec­tronic Counter Mea­sures (ECM), in­ter­fer­ence, and in­ter­cep­tion. The radar can in­ter­leave air-toair, air-to-ground and ter­rain fol­low­ing modes to pro­vide si­mul­ta­ne­ous as­sess­ment in ev­ery mode, a highly de­sir­able at­tribute for a strike fighter in terms of sit­u­a­tional aware­ness. The AN/APG-79 AESA en­tered low-rate ini­tial pro­duc­tion in Septem­ber

2003 and was in­te­grated with new-build Block II Su­per Hor­nets from 2005 on­ward, while older Block I Su­per Hor­nets were retro­fit­ted in later years.

Raytheon’s AN/ASQ-228 ATFLIR ( Ad­vanced Tar­get­ing For­ward- Look­ing In­fra-Red) is de­ployed for “silent noc­tur­nal ap­proach,” and fea­tures both nav­i­ga­tion and in­frared tar­get­ing sys­tems, in par­tic­u­lar a third-gen­er­a­tion Mid-Wave (3-5 mi­cron) For­ward Look­ing In­fra-Red (MWFLIR) for tar­get­ing pur­poses and in­cor­po­rat­ing star­ing fo­cal plane ar­ray tech­nol­ogy. The ATFLIR com­ple­ments the Su­per Hor­net’s AESA pri­mary sen­sor. Ad­di­tional sen­sors in the ‘pack­age’ in­clude a high-pow­ered diode-pumped laser spot tracker, nav­i­ga­tion FLIR and Charged Cou­pled De­vice (CCD) TV cam­era. Stan­dard re­con­nais­sance hard­ware is the Raytheon Shared Re­con­nais­sance Pod (SHARP). Ad­di­tion­ally, an elec­tronic at­tack ver­sion of the Su­per Hor­net, the EA-18G Growler, mod­i­fied for es­cort and clo­sein jam­ming in­cor­po­rat­ing the Im­proved Ca­pa­bil­ity III (ICAP III) suite de­vel­oped for the EA-6B Prowler ac­com­pa­nies F/A-18E/F in strike mis­sions to deal with en­emy air de­fence net­work and in­stal­la­tions.

The Su­per Hor­net is well suited for emerg­ing naval and lit­toral op­er­a­tions. For anti-ship strike AGM-84 Har­poon is car­ried as also its land at­tack vari­ants, the Stand- off Land At­tack Mis­sile ( SLAM) and its ex­tended range vari­ant the SLAMER. The AGM-84D Har­poon anti-ship mis­sile was first in­tro­duced in 1977 and has un­der­gone nu­mer­ous up­grades to rep­re­sent “cut­ting-edge tech­nol­ogy.” Presently the lat­est air launched anti- ship vari­ant is the AGM- 84D Block 1C with fur­ther de­vel­op­ments con­stantly be­ing eval­u­ated to en­sure sur­viv­abil­ity of the mis­sile type for per­haps another decade. The mis­sile main­tains a deadly sea-skim­ming run mon­i­tored by a radar al­time­ter and can ex­e­cute a de­cep­tive sud­den ‘pop-up ma­noeu­vre’ at the ter­mi­nal phase with guid­ance pro­vided by an Ac­tive- Radar Hom­ing (ARH) seeker. Sub­stan­tial dam­age is caused by the pen­e­tra­tive high-ex­plo­sive (Des­tex) 215-pound war­head.

While the Har­poon prom­ises to be a for­mi­da­ble de­struc­tive weapon, its im­por­tance lies in its pro­gres­sive de­vel­op­ment to land- at­tack vari­ants in re­sponse to de­mands for an ef­fec­tive weapon in emerg­ing lit­toral war­fare sce­nar­ios. Tak­ing ad­van­tage of the ex­ten­sive tech­no­log­i­cal base that the United States pos­sesses in the field of mis­sile tech­nol­ogy, Har­poon AGM-84E Block 1E Stand-Off Land At­tack Mis­sile (SLAM) was de­vel­oped as an en­hanced range weapon sys­tem for pre­ci­sion strike ca­pa­bil­ity against high value land tar­gets and ships in port, by amal­ga­mat­ing proven tech­nol­ogy from other mis­sile sys­tems. The guid­ance sys­tem was mod­i­fied with an In­er­tial Nav­i­ga­tion Sys­tem ( INS) with Global Po­si­tion­ing Sys­tem ( GPS). In­fra- Red ( IR) ter­mi­nal guid­ance was de­rived from AGM- 62 Wall­eye (a highly suc­cess­ful Viet­nam War­era mu­ni­tion), the data- link fea­ture of AGM-65 Mav­er­ick was in­cor­po­rated and it is fit­ted with a Tom­a­hawk war­head for bet­ter pen­e­tra­tion.

Fur­ther up­grade po­ten­tial be­came in­her­ent in the process and this ma­te­ri­alised in the form of AGM-84E Block 1F SLAMER (Ex­panded Re­sponse). The Mis­sile’s range was en­hanced to nearly 300 km with for­mi­da­ble tar­get pen­e­tra­tion ca­pa­bil­ity, thanks to the ti­ta­nium war­head. Another sig­nif­i­cant at­tribute was en­hance­ment of con­trol range, which in com­bi­na­tion with soft­ware im­prove­ments al­lows the pi­lot to re­tar­get the im­pact point of the mis­sile even dur­ing the ter­mi­nal phase of at­tack. In Fe­bru­ary 2004, the SLAM-ER com­pleted in­te­gra­tion on the USN P-3C Orion and all USN SLAM mis­siles are be­ing retro­fit­ted to the SLAM-ER con­fig­u­ra­tion. Still un­der de­vel­op­ment is the AGM-84E Block 1G SLAM-ATA (Au­to­matic Tar­get Ac­qui­si­tion) with re- at­tack ca­pa­bil­ity and new seeker, per­haps a Dig­i­tal Scene Match­ing Area Cor­re­la­tor ( DSMAC). Vari­ants of SLAM- ER/ ATA ap­pear to be ca­pa­ble of con­duct­ing suc­cess­ful coun­ter­force op­er­a­tions against en­emy high value as­sets in­clud­ing nu­clear in­fra­struc­tures by con­ven­tional strikes alone (a sig­nif­i­cant ad­van­tage) yet stay clear from an­tic­i­pated heav­i­est en­emy ground-based de­fences.

The Har­poon Block II presently in pro­duc­tion is in­tended to of­fer an ex­panded en­gage­ment en­ve­lope, en­hanced re­sis­tance to Elec­tronic Counter Mea­sures (ECM) and im­proved tar­get­ing in lit­toral wa­ters. The key im­prove­ments of the Har­poon Block II are ob­tained by in­cor­po­rat­ing the In­er­tial Mea­sure­ment Unit (IMU) from the JDAM pro­gram, and the soft­ware, com­puter, GPS/in­er­tial nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem and GPS an­tenna/re­ceiver from the SLAM-ER.

For BVR com­bat, in­clud­ing cruise mis­sile in­ter­cep­tion in con­cert with suit­able AEW&C plat­forms, the AN/APG-79 AESA radar is crucial to Su­per Hor­net op­er­a­tions. F/ A- 18E/ F fleets op­er­at­ing along­side F- 22 Rap­tor and F- 35 Light­ning II fleets at mid­dle al­ti­tudes around 25,00030,000-ft “at dif­fer­ent lay­ers” are pro­jected to op­er­ate in an ex­tended picket line to track cruise mis­siles from the “less stealthy” beam as­pect. The pri­mary weapon un­der such cir­cum­stances is pro­jected to be a spe­cific vari­ant AIM-120C AMRAAM, the AIM-120C-6 with an im­proved seeker and an up­dated TDD (Tar­get De­tec­tion De­vice) to op­ti­mise the ex­plo­sive cone of de­struc­tion for small, slow tar­gets in a headon en­gage­ment and in­cor­po­rates im­proved fus­ing through a new quad­rant tar­get-

de­tec­tion de­vice. The “set-piece moves” of the USAF and USN fighters in­clud­ing Su­per Hor­nets in­clude ap­proach to a wave of cruise mis­siles head-on, get in a first shot and then turn for a sec­ond and third shot from be­hind. The fol­low-on AIM-120C-7 (P3I Phase 3) in­cor­po­rates im­proved Elec­tronic Counter-Counter Mea­sures (ECCM) with jam­ming de­tec­tion, an up­graded seeker, and longer range. The AESA set in ad­di­tion with se­cure, in­ter­op­er­a­ble tech­nol­ogy can also be mod­i­fied to send and re­ceive large amounts of in­for­ma­tion at ex­tremely high data rates with min­i­mal “leak­age” to force mul­ti­pli­ers such as AEW&C plat­forms, UAVs and ground sta­tions to en­hance sit­u­a­tional aware­ness.

Close-Com­bat

Close-com­bat ef­fec­tive­ness and punch is fur­ther pro­vided by in­cor­po­ra­tion of the Boe­ing-de­vel­oped Joint Hel­met-Mounted Cue­ing Sys­tem (JHMCS) and Raytheon AIM-9X Sidewinder close-com­bat mis­sile. The AIM- 9X uses an ex­tremely ag­ile thrust- vec­tor con­trolled air­frame along with a ma­ture star­ing fo­cal plane ar­ray IR sen­sor to fa­cil­i­tate ex­tremely high off-bore­sight ac­qui­si­tion and launch en­velopes, greatly en­hanced ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity and im­proved tar­get ac­qui­si­tion ranges to pro­vide a ‘first shot – first kill’ ad­van­tage. For fu­ture en­hance­ments, the dig­i­tal de­sign ar­chi­tec­ture of the mis­sile pro­vides in­her­ent growth ca­pa­bil­ity. An In­fra-Red Search and Track (IRST) sen­sor, the IRST21 is en­ter­ing ser­vice, mounted on a mod­i­fied cen­tre­line fuel tank to pro­vide ad­di­tional “silent” sup­port to AIM-9X. For ‘eye­ball to eye­ball con­fronta­tion’ the gun sys­tem is Gen­eral Dy­nam­ics M61A2, with a se­lectable fir­ing rate of 4,000 or 6,000 shots per minute.

AEW&C

For ‘guid­ance’ to the F/A-18E/F Su­per Hor­net fleet, the Northrop Grum­man E- 2D Ad­vanced Hawk­eye AEW& C plat­form suc­cess­fully meets the pa­ram­e­ters re­gard­ing pre­sen­ta­tion of an in­te­grated air and sur­face pic­ture of the area un­der sur­veil­lance in ad­verse weather con­di­tions and in dense elec­tronic en­vi­ron­ment, air­borne sur­veil­lance, de­tec­tion and track­ing of both air­borne and sur­face con­tacts and con­trol of air in­ter­cep­tions and air strikes. Af­ter all, for as­sured pro­tec­tion of air­craft car­rier strike groups, the at­tack­ing air­borne mis­sile plat­forms need to be de­stroyed well be­fore their mu­ni­tions are re­leased. Fixed­wing AEW&C plat­forms have su­pe­rior cov­er­age of airspace and more im­por­tantly have the abil­ity to guide and con­trol ship­borne fighters to­wards their tar­gets, both in air de­fence and strike mis­sions, an at­tribute lack­ing in the Air­borne Early Warn­ing (AEW) he­li­copter plat­forms.

The an­ces­try of the E-2D of course dates back to E-2A vari­ant, which gained op­er­a­tional sta­tus over 50 years ago aboard the USS Kitty Hawk (CVA-63) in 1965, giv­ing the E-2 the long­est pro­duc­tion run of any car­rier-based air­craft. Dur­ing the Viet­nam War Hawkeyes ini­tially op­er­ated in sup­port of USN F- 4 Phan­toms and F-8 Cru­saders per­form­ing armed Com­bat Air Pa­trol (CAP) to cover strike el­e­ments. Sub­se­quently Hawk­eye plat­forms started to con­trol strike mis­sions, guid­ing USN strike pack­ages of F-4 Phan­toms and A-6 In­trud­ers around high ground and de­fen­sive con­cen­tra­tions, and warn­ing them of en­emy in­ter­cep­tors in the vicin­ity. How­ever the pri­mary role of the E- 2 Hawk­eye is to op­er­ate as an all-weather AEW&C plat­form to the naval task force ca­pa­ble of area and on-sta­tion search. From an op­er­at­ing al­ti­tude of 25,000 to 30,000 ft, the Hawk­eye warns the naval task force of ap­proach­ing air threats and pro­vides threat iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and po­si­tional data to in­ter­cep­tors. Sec­ondary roles in­clude strike com­mand and con­trol, sur­veil­lance, guid­ance of search and res­cue mis­sions in­clud­ing sup­port for anti-hi­jack op­er­a­tions and as a re­lay to ex­tend the range of com­mu­ni­ca­tions be­tween the air­borne plat­forms and the Com­bat In­for­ma­tion Cen­tre (CIC) of the par­ent air­craft car­rier.

The E-2C with the APS-120 radar made its op­er­a­tional de­but with VAW-123 aboard USS Saratoga bound for the Mediter­ranean Sea in Septem­ber 1974. This ver­sion was first to ac­quire a de­cent ‘over-land’ ca­pa­bil­ity. A Hawk­eye is usu­ally one of the first air­craft to leave a car­rier’s deck af­ter com­mence­ment of air op­er­a­tions, and the fuse­lage is de­signed for car­rier op­er­a­tions, fit­ted with a cat­a­pult at­tach­ment for ac­cel­er­ated car­rier take-off, an A-frame ar­rester hook for en­gage­ment of the ar­rest­ing gear and a tail bumper to with­stand im­pact or scrap­ing on the run­way. At on-sta­tion search mode the E-2C flies at around 25,000 to 30,000 feet at a dis­tance of 370 km from the par­ent car­rier in a con­stant or­bit, gain­ing al­ti­tude steadily as fuel burns off. The flaps are set at 10- de­grees to pro­vide the op­ti­mum 3-de­grees radar-scan­ning at­ti­tude. The new Al­li­son T56A-427 en­gines, each rated at 5,100-shaft horse­power, al­low the E-2C to cruise on sta­tion for more than four hours.

Dur­ing the 1990s the then re­cently in­tro­duced APS- 138 ad­vanced radar pro­cess­ing sys­tem en­abled de­tec­tion, iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and track­ing both over land and sea in ex­cess of 450 km and with ex­panded com­puter mem­ory was able to ac­com­plish tri­an­gu­la­tion au­to­mat­i­cally. Ad­vanced pas­sive de­tec­tion en­abled ‘silent’ recog­ni­tion and clas­si­fi­ca­tion of hos­tile elec­tronic emissions at ranges well in ex­cess of the on board radar. A pair of Lit­ton L-304 com­put­ers han­dled data pro­cess­ing. Data in­puts or re­quest for in­for­ma­tion were made ei­ther by means of an al­phanu­meric key­board or by a light- pen which was usu­ally used to ‘hook’ a spe­cific USN F-14 Tomcat in­ter­cep­tor to a spe­cific tar­get by feed­ing rel­e­vant tar­get in­for­ma­tion to the in­ter­cep­tor weapons con­trol sys­tem by means of a data-link. The de­vel­op­ing tac­ti­cal sit­u­a­tions were pre­sented by means of the Hazel­tine APA-172 con­trol in­di­ca­tor group

to the mis­sion con­trol room lo­cated in the rear fuse­lage di­rectly be­neath the radome and in­cluded the Com­bat In­for­ma­tion Cen­tre Of­fi­cer (CICO), Air Con­trol Of­fi­cer and the Radar Op­er­a­tor on iden­ti­cal crew sta­tions of 10-inch di­am­e­ter main radar dis­play screens, pro­vid­ing data per­tain­ing to tar­get tracks and 5-inch al­phanu­meric aux­il­iary dis­play. In­de­pen­dent con­trol at each sta­tion en­abled crewmem­bers to se­lect rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion and data to be pre­sented in­clud­ing tar­get sym­bols, ve­loc­ity vec­tors, and dis­po­si­tion of friendly fighter forces, sur­face task groups and way­points. The CICO re­mained in ra­dio con­tact with the air de­fence com­man­der, usu­ally sta­tioned on a Ti­con­deroga- class Aegis mis­sile cruiser and if the CICO en­coun­tered a radar hit that was not send­ing out air­craft-iden­ti­fi­ca­tion sig­nals from an on- board transpon­der, the E-2C’s Air Con­trol Of­fi­cer zoomed in on the in­bound track and passed the rel­e­vant data to the air de­fence fighters and in­ter­cep­tors en­gaged in CAP duty.

Presently the 24-ft di­am­e­ter radome houses the AN/APA-171 an­tenna supplied by Randtron Sys­tems ro­tat­ing at a rate of five to six rpm. The Lock­heed Martin AN/APS-145 radar is ca­pa­ble of track­ing more than 2,000 tar­gets and con­trol­ling the in­ter­cep­tion of 40 hos­tile tar­gets. One radar sweep cov­ers 6 mil­lion cu­bic miles. The radar’s to­tal ra­di­a­tion aper­ture con­trol an­tenna re­duces side lobes and is suf­fi­ciently ro­bust against Elec­tronic Counter Mea­sures ( ECM). It is now ca­pa­ble of de­tect­ing hos­tile air­borne tar­gets at ranges greater than 550 km, and even cruise mis­siles with Radar Cross Sec­tion (RCS) of 1 sq m or less can be de­tected at around 185 km. This serves as a crit­i­cal ad­van­tage as even hos­tile sub­marines are likely to at­tack with sea-skim­ming an­ti­ship mis­siles and cruise mis­siles, thus ASW screen­ing be­comes anal­o­gous to air de­fence and of­ten the mere pres­ence of in­com­ing cruise mis­siles will serve as the only warn­ing of an im­pend­ing at­tack.

The lat­est mis­sion com­put­ers are equipped with an en­hanced high- speed par­al­lel pro­ces­sor. The Lock­heed Martin AN/ UYQ- 70 ad­vanced dis­play sys­tem and com­puter pe­riph­er­als pro­vide the op­er­a­tors with multi-colour dis­plays, map over­lays, zoom fa­cil­i­ties and aux­il­iary data dis­plays. In Au­gust 2005, Northrop Grum­man com­pleted the E-2C mis­sion com­puter re­place­ment pro­gramme, with the pro­vi­sion of faster, more pow­er­ful and re­li­able com­put­ers. The com­mu­ni­ca­tions suite in­cludes an AN/ARC-158 Ul­tra High Fre­quency (UHF) data link, an AN/ARQ34 High Fre­quency (HF) datalink and a Joint Tac­ti­cal In­for­ma­tion Dis­tri­bu­tion Sys­tem (JTIDS).

The cur­rent- gen­er­a­tion stan­dard E- 2C ‘ Hawk­eye 2000’ made its first op­er­a­tional de­ploy­ment in 2003 aboard USS Nimitz in sup­port of Op­er­a­tion Iraqi Free­dom. The Hawk­eye 2000 fea­tures a smaller and lighter Raytheon Mis­sion Com­puter Up­grade ( MCU) based on open ar­chi­tec­ture com­mer­cial off- theshelf (COTS) tech­nol­ogy, with in­creased mem­ory and faster pro­cess­ing. More im­por­tantly Co- op­er­a­tive En­gage­ment Ca­pa­bil­ity (CEC) con­sists of pro­ces­sor, data dis­tri­bu­tion sys­tem and an­tenna and to en­able Hawk­eye 2000 to per­form re­al­time Bat­tle Man­age­ment ( BM), fus­ing and dis­tribut­ing in­for­ma­tion from sources such as satel­lite and ship-borne radar. Also in­cluded in the “pack­age” are Lock­heed Martin Ad­vanced Con­trol In­di­ca­tor Set ( ACIS), Satel­lite Com­mu­ni­ca­tions (SATCOM) and pris­tine nav­i­ga­tion and flight con­trol sys­tems while Elec­tronic Sup­port Mea­sures (ESM) equip­ment has been up­graded. From May 2004 on­wards, USN Hawk­eye 2000 air­craft are be­ing fit­ted with Hamil­ton Sund­strand NP2000 dig­i­tally con­trolled eight-bladed pro­pel­lers.

E-2D Ad­vanced Hawk­eye

The Hawk­eye mean­while re­mains well within its de­vel­op­ment cy­cle with de­vel­op­ment pro­ceed­ing on the nextgen­er­a­tion E-2D Ad­vanced Hawk­eye with em­pha­sis on Bat­tle Man­age­ment Com­mand and Con­trol (BMC2) ca­pa­ble of serv­ing as a ‘dig­i­tal quar­ter­back’ to sweep ahead of strike mis­sions, man­age air­craft, and keep net-cen­tric car­rier bat­tle groups out of harm’s way. Hav­ing at­tained Ini­tial Op­er­a­tional Ca­pa­bil­ity (IOC) in Oc­to­ber 2014, the E-2D is fit­ted with Lock­heed Martin Mar­itime Sys­tems and Sen­sors-de­vel­oped so­phis­ti­cated AN/APY-9 nextgen­er­a­tion solid-state, elec­tron­i­cally steered Ul­tra-High Fre­quency (UHF) radar with new Elec­tron­i­cally Scanned Ar­ray (ESA) an­tenna ( Northrop Grum­man sup­plies the trans­mit­ter, Raytheon the re­ceiver, L-3 Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Randtron the UHF an­tenna and BAE Sys­tems CNIR the IFF sys­tem) that sup­ports Ad­vanced AEW Sur­veil­lance ( AAS), En­hanced Sec­tor Scan (ESS) and pure elec­tronic scan­ning En­hanced Track­ing Sec­tor (ETS) radar modes per­form­ing 360-de­grees scan­ning al­low­ing flight op­er­a­tors to fo­cus the radar on se­lect ar­eas of in­ter­est (in­clud­ing tar­gets in air and sea sur­face si­mul­ta­ne­ously), SpaceTime Adap­tive Pro­cess­ing (STAP) soft­ware, en­abling the hy­brid AN/APY-9 ESA radar to pick small Radar Cross Sec­tion (RCS) fly­ing tar­gets out of a back­ground of rough ter­rain and ur­ban sprawl, dig­i­tal re­ceivers, plus Adap­tive De­tec­tion Sys­tem (ADS) -18/Ro­tary Cou­pler Assem­bly (RCA) with co-aligned ad­vanced Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Friend or Foe (IFF).

The range of AN/ APY- 9 may be de­duced to be at least at 400 km, more likely to be lim­ited only by the E- 2D radar hori­zon. The radar sig­nif­i­cantly en­hances The­atre Mis­sile De­fence (against TBMs) plus air de­fence ca­pa­bil­i­ties in the lit­torals, over­land and open sea, thanks fur­ther to multi-sen­sor in­te­gra­tion and a Northrop Grum­man Nav­i­ga­tion Sys­tems fully in­te­grated ‘all glass’ tac­ti­cal cock­pit for ex­panded bat­tlespace aware­ness. To spread the work­load, the new de­sign gives the copi­lot a scope of his own so he can par­tic­i­pate in the E-2D’s tac­ti­cal mis­sion when he is not help­ing fly the plat­form.

Added E-2D fea­tures in­clude Elec­tronic Sup­port Mea­sures (ESM) en­hance­ments in form of AN/ALQ-217, new mis­sion com­puter and tac­ti­cal work­sta­tions with the Com­bat In­for­ma­tion Cen­tre (CIC) is equipped with 20-inch di­ag­o­nal Ac­tive Ma­trix Liq­uid Crys­tal Dis­play (AMLCD) sup­port­ing 8- bits per colour RGB and 256 shades of grey with wide view­ing angle (± 75 de­grees hor­i­zon­tal and + 40 de­grees/-30 de­grees ver­ti­cal), and mod­ernised com­mu­ni­ca­tions and data-link suite. The op­er­at­ing height of 25,000 ft above for­ward-de­ployed fleets will en­able the E-2D’s AN/ APY-9 radar to de­tect hos­tile in­com­ing mis­siles at ranges great enough to al­low for or­gan­i­sa­tion of an ef­fec­tive fleet de­fence, while the slow 474-km/hr cruise speed is bound to max­imise tar­get ob­ser­va­tion time, to col­lect air­borne tar­get and elec­tronic emit­ter data from well be­yond the radar hori­zon of sur­face ships. The E-2D can then feed this to fighter air­craft, ship­board mis­sile de­fences and the newly emerg­ing Global In­for­ma­tion Grid (GIG). In the more con­ven­tional role of ‘mar­itime sen­tinel,’ E-2Ds will be able to com­mu­ni­cate di­rectly with air­craft car­rier bat­tle groups, fighter

air­craft, com­mu­ni­ca­tions satel­lites, UAVs, sub­marines, Search and Res­cue ( SAR) plat­forms and C& C cen­tres. Im­proved Rolls-Royce T56-A-427A en­gines fea­ture a propul­sion sys­tem con­trol, mon­i­tor­ing and main­te­nance sys­tem along with emer­gency power rat­ing to in­crease sin­gle-en­gine rate of climb. Hamil­ton Sund­strand NP2000 dig­i­tally con­trolled, eight-bladed pro­pel­lers pro­vide less vi­bra­tion and noise. An in­de­vel­op­ment in-flight re­fu­el­ing ca­pa­bil­ity will ex­tend mis­sion en­durance to twelve hours.

Pro­jected to re­place all 75 USN E-2C AEW& C plat­forms, the first Sys­tem De­vel­op­ment & Demon­stra­tion (SD&D) E-2D (Delta One) made its maiden flight on 3 Au­gust 2007 with Northrop Grum­man Flight Test Pi­lot Tom Boutin and USN Flight Test Pi­lot Lt. Drew Ballinger along with Northrop Grum­man Flight Test Lead Weapon Sys­tems Op­er­a­tor Zyad Hajo. On 30 July 2010, the first pro­duc­tion E-2D was trans­ferred to the USN’s Air­borne Early Warn­ing Squadron VAW-120 based in Nor­folk. On 3 Fe­bru­ary 2011, an E-2D as­signed to Air Test and Eval­u­a­tion Squadron 20 (VX-20) landed on the eighth Nimitz- class car­rier USS Harry S Tru­man ( CVN 75) to ini­ti­ate car­rier suit­abil­ity test­ing. IOC was at­tained in Oc­to­ber 2014 with VAW- 125 aboard USS Theodore Roo­sevelt (CVN-71), and on 11 March 2015, the Theodore Roo­sevelt Car­rier Strike Group de­parted Naval Sta­tion Nor­folk and re­turned to port on 23 Novem­ber 2015, con­clud­ing the first op­er­a­tional use of the E-2D.

Ad­di­tion­ally, in USN op­er­a­tions the E- 2D will be the first plat­form in the dis­trib­uted mis­sile de­fence net­work to de­tect a cruise mis­sile launched from a ground­based mo­bile plat­form. Re­spond­ing to this time- crit­i­cal threat, the E- 2D, util­is­ing FORCEnet-en­abled com­mu­ni­ca­tions, will alert a Ti­con­deroga- class Aegis cruiser of the launch and will pro­vide con­tin­u­ous cue­ing in­for­ma­tion un­til the Aegis can de­stroy the mis­sile. Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, col­lab­o­rat­ing with satel­lite In­tel­li­gence, Sur­veil­lance, and Re­con­nais­sance (ISR) as­sets, the E-2D will direct an UAV to pre­cisely lo­cate and iden­tify the launch plat­form. As the air­borne bat­tle man­ager, the E-2D will re­lay this in­for­ma­tion to strike air­craft to de­liver pre­ci­sion-guided weapons to elim­i­nate the launcher be­fore it can re­po­si­tion or launch a sec­ond at­tack.

USN’s Trans­for­ma­tion

With a two- gen­er­a­tion leap in radar tech­nol­ogy and im­proved data pro­cess­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions the E- 2D is the foun­da­tion for The­atre Air Mis­sile De­fence, a key el­e­ment in the ‘Sea Shield’ por­tion of the USN’s ‘Sea Power 21’ trans­for­ma­tion plan. In ad­di­tion, the sys­tem ful­fils an ever-ex­pand­ing role in ‘Sea Strike,’ with im­proved de­tec­tion and track­ing ca­pa­bil­ity in lit­toral and over­land op­er­a­tions. Util­is­ing its open-ar­chi­tec­ture net­work con­nec­tiv­ity, it is a key FORCE net en­abler and pro­vides the abil­ity to co­or­di­nate time- crit­i­cal tar­get­ing and time-crit­i­cal strike op­er­a­tions. The Hawk­eye’s per­for­mance in Op­er­a­tion En­dur­ing Free­dom and Op­er­a­tion Iraqi Free­dom demon­strated how dy­namic and flex­i­ble the weapon sys­tem is in a joint force bat­tle en­gage­ment.

Un­doubt­edly the E- 2D Ad­vanced Hawk­eye is crit­i­cal in the trans­for­ma­tion of com­bat el­e­ments to a fully net­worked joint com­bat force, pro­vid­ing air­borne bat­tlespace com­mand and con­trol well into the 21st cen­tury.

An E-2D Ad­vanced Hawk­eye seen with wings folded on the deck of USS Theodore Roo­sevelt (photo: An­gad Singh)

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