The US Navy's Northrop Grumman-built E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft has attained initial operational capability (IOC), making it eligible for active mission deployments.
Airborne Command Control and Logistics Wing commander captain Drew Basden said: "This significant milestone is a result of the strong partnership between the fleet, the acquisition community and our industry partner.
"By achieving IOC, we can effectively deploy the E-2D for operational missions and continue our successful transition from the E-2C Hawkeye."
Built as part of a $3.6bn contract for the delivery of 25 aircraft, the new E-2D Advanced Hawkeye is claimed to be the latest and most technologically advanced variant of the E-2 Hawkeye airborne early warning command and control (AEW&C) platform.
It can be used to perform airborne strikes, land force support and rescue operations, and can manage a reliable communications network between widely dispersed nodes, in addition to drug interdiction missions.
The aircraft's structural design, which integrates a rotating rotodome and four vertical stabiliser tail configurations, is claimed to offer 360-degree surveillance.
E-2 / C-2 Airborne Tactical Data System Programme Office (PMA-231) manager captain John Lemmon said: "Since the first E-2D Advanced Hawkeye delivery in 2007, every aircraft has been, and continues to be, delivered on cost and on schedule.
"I'm confident that the E-2D will continue to be ready, relevant and capable for decades to come and continue serving the navy carrier strike group with distinction."
The aircraft's AN / APY-9 radar system features both mechanical and electronic scanning capabilities, a fully integrated glass tactical cockpit and an advanced identification friend or foe system, in addition to electronic support measure enhancements and an updated communications and data link suite.
Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems E-2 / C-2 Programmes vice-president Bart LaGrone said: "We are proud of the pivotal role the E-2 Hawkeye has played, and continues to play, in military and humanitarian operations around the globe with the navy, as well as our international operators, the Japan Air Self-Defence Force, the French Navy, and the air forces of Taiwan and Egypt."
To date, Northrop has delivered 15 of the 75 aircraft to be delivered as part of the navy's E-2D Advanced Hawkeye programme.
Image: The first E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft was delivered to the US Navy in 2007. Photo: courtesy of the Northrop Grumman Corp.