Northrop Grumman, along with the US Navy, has successfully completed preliminary design review (PDR) of the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aerial refuelling system, paving way for the system's critical design review and its manufacturing phase.
Built as part of $226.7m engineering, manufacturing and development contract awarded in 2013, the system will be installed on the newly built E-2Ds and also retrofitted onto the US Navy's existing E-2D fleet to extend the aircraft's flight endurance.
E-2/C-2 Airborne Tactical Data System Program Office (PMA-231) programme manager captain John Lemmon said: "I'm very pleased with the progress the team has made.
"Adding an aerial refuelling capability to the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye will extend its critical mission of providing continuous information to the warfighter who depends on it."
Northrop is also designing new systems to comply with aerial refuelling capabilities. The system includes new seats to improve pilot field-of-view and to reduce crew fatigue; formation lights to enhance visualisation and air space orientation; and improved software flight control system software to help pilots with aircraft handling advantages when refuelling.
Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems E-2/C-2 programmes vice-president Bart LaGrone said: "The greater endurance provided by aerial refuelling provides the warfighter with enhanced surveillance and targeting capability and the persistence needed to accomplish this more effectively.
"This results in an advanced airborne early warning system that yields greater surveillance for a longer period of time at a greater distance than presently available."
Further, the extended range of the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye would deliver the US with improved maritime security necessitated by the enormous geography of the Asia-Pacific region, for the US and its allies.
LaGrone added: "The level of information provided to the warfighter will increase exponentially with the extended range and endurance of the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye fleet with aerial refuelling."
The navy's E-2D programme seeks to build 75 aircraft and currently operates a fleet of 62 E-2Cs, with a further 28 E-2Cs commissioned by the militaries of Egypt, France, Japan and Taiwan.
In June, Northrop was awarded a $3.6bn contract from the US Navy to build and deliver 25 new E-2Ds.
Image: The Northrop Grumman's E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft. Photo: courtesy of Northrop Grumman Corp.