The US Navy's carrier-based airborne early warning squadron (VAW)-121, the Bluetails, has launched its first E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft, marking an end to its 37-year association with the previous model E-2C Hawkeye.
VAW-121 operations officer lieutenant commander Nolan King said: "It's still an E-2 and we're going to be capable to provide all the functions and perform all the same missions as we did with the E-2C.
"With the added improvements in our sensor capability we're going to be able to improve efficiency and lethality of the strike group and other assets we're working with."
The Northrop Grumman-built E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft integrates a new electronics suite, more powerful turboprop engines and future air-to-air refuelling capability.
The new aircraft is said to be the latest and most technologically advanced variant of the E-2 Hawkeye airborne early warning command and control (AEW&C) platform.
Capable of managing a reliable communications network between widely dispersed nodes, the aircraft is designed to conduct airborne strikes, land force support, rescue operations and drug interdiction missions.
The aircraft's AN/APY-9 radar system integrates both mechanical and electronic scanning capabilities, a fully integrated glass tactical cockpit and an advanced identification friend or foe system, as well as electronic support measure improvements and a modernised communications and data link suite.
While testing for the E-2D aircraft started in 2007 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, US, the first aircraft is set for deployment on-board the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) aircraft carrier next year.
Image: The new E-2D Advanced Hawkeye on its debut test flight with the VAW 121 squadron. Photo: courtesy of US Navy photo by mass communication specialist 3rd class Shane A Jackson.