The US Navy (USN) has contracted the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft, Northrop Grumman (NG), to evolve the platform’s cockpit and digital architecture.
Operating from an altitude more than 25,000ft, the Hawkeye alerts the naval task force to approaching air threats, while also providing threat identification and positional data to fighter aircraft.
The E-2D analyses, fuses and distributes multi-domain information into a command and control (C2) system of systems. As the offensive and defensive co-ordinator of the USN’s Carrier Strike Group, the E-2D provides dominant and continuous interoperable C2 as well as ISR for protection.
With the total cost amount undisclosed, the USN has tasked NG to integrate its latest software system: Delta Systems Software Configuration 6 (DSSC6) – the sixth iteration in a series of software and hardware upgrades made to the E-2D on two-to-three-year intervals. The OEM tells us that DSSC6 includes cockpit technology alterations and a theatre combat identification.
Once fielded, the new open architecture will enable rapid integration of emerging capabilities, this includes non-proprietary applications from other industry suppliers.
The Navy intends to retrofit all 94 units in its Hawkeye fleet with an updated cockpit, navigation tech and mission systems, starting in 2029 and throughout the 2030s.
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E-2D software timeline
In 2021, the Department of the Navy determined that there may be significant schedule risks if its Software Support Activity (SSA) facilities at Patuxent River, Maryland and Point Mugu, California were not certified after DSSC5.
The SSA facilities have some physical space that can operate at required classification levels for DSSC5 and beyond, but most of the space cannot currently. If not addressed, this will limit the amount of work/people due to facility size/staff therefore increasing life cycle sustainment cost for Mission Computer Display (MCD) software.
However, as part of the FY2024 budget request, the Navy asked for an increase to provide “Program Related Logistics wholeness to ensure E-2D Full Mission Capable (FMC) rate and Material Corrective Action Report (MCAR) objectives are met.”
On 3 October, the same day NG was selected to integrate DSSC6, the US Department of Defense also awarded Rockwell Collins, an RTX subsidiary, a $20.2m contract modification that exercises options to procure hardware and software concurrent baseline to DSSC5 for a Simulated Maintenance Trainer and Power Plant Trainer devices to be completed in April 2026.