The US Navy has successfully conducted a critical design review of the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye's aerial refuelling (AR) capability, taking a major step towards the aerial refuelling of the aircraft.
The review will result in the production of the AR system for installation on new E-2D AHEs on the production line and for retrofit of E-2D AHEs already in operational use.
E-2 / C-2 Airborne Tactical Data System Program Office (PMA-231) programme manager captain John Lemmon said: "The AR team continues to put outstanding effort into bringing this much needed capability to the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye.
"Aerial refuelling will enable the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye to provide longer on-station times at greater ranges."
The Naval Air Systems Command and Northrop Grumman have shown various aspects of the AR system's technical development to a technical review board for evaluation during the review.
The E-2D Advanced Hawkeye is 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 first test aircraft in this series will be sent to Florida in the end of this year to be installed with prototype AR equipment and instrumentation for flight test.
The AR-equipped E-2D AHE test aircraft is expected to undergo flight testing in 2017, with initial operational capability expected in 2020.
In March, the navy deployed its first E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) aircraft carrier.
Image: An E-2C undergoes 'dry plug' testing behind an F/A-18. Photo: courtesy of US Navy photo.