DB - Digital Battlespace

Sea Air Space 2011: USN airborne battle management system gears up for OPEVAL

13th April 2011 - 20:10 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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The US Navy's (USN's) E2-D Advanced Hawkeye will begin an operational evaluation (OPEVAL) in November concluding with flight tests aboard the USS Harry S Truman, according to the navy and Northrop Grumman.

Speaking at the Navy League Sea Air Space exposition in Washington, DC, Capt Shane Gahagan, programme manager for PMA-231 and James Culmo, vice president airborne electronic warfare programmes at Northrop Grumman, said four aircraft are scheduled to conduct the tests ahead of a proposed deployment date at the start of 2015.

Due to take place at Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada, as well as on board the USS Truman, the OPEVAL will comprise the long range detection of 'stressing air and cruise missiles; sea target tracking; and precision tracking of manoeuvre assets,' Gahagan said. Tests will also include use of Hawkeye's AAS/ESS and ETS radar systems as well as its Tactical Navigation Cockpit display.

'We are now nearing the end of the development programme,' Gahagan stated while referring to February's Carrier Suitability tests which he described as 'the last major milestone in the development programme'. Culmo added that weapon system verification and subsystem qualification testing was due to be completed this year with 95 per cent of flight tests now complete.

The OPEVAL is due to conclude in March 2012 after the E2-D has completed successful take-offs and landings from the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. According to Culmo, the production schedule will see a total of 75 aircraft delivered to the USN by 2019, with 20 platforms already approved by Congress.

Once OPEVAL is completed, the navy said one and a half squadrons would be equipped with the airframes each year with a 10-month transition for aircrews to train on the new systems. However, the navy said the in-service E2-C is expected to remain in service until 2026.

Additionally, Culmo said the navy and Northrop Grumman were also considering an 'off-board ISR' capability for the airframe as part of an 'evaluation from the warfighter's perspective' as well as an air-to-air refuelling capability in order to provide mission duration up to 12 hours. 'We will be doing this later in the year behind C-130 Hercules and Hornet aircraft,' he stated.

Finally, Northrop Grumman said it was also looking at development of an export variation: 'We have approval to talk to a number of partners who already have E2-Cs, who perhaps could upgrade to E2-Ds in the future,' Culmo stated. Interested parties are understood to include France, India, Japan, Malaysia  and the UAE as well as Egypt and Taiwan.

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