E-2 Hawkeye (aka "The Hummer")
The flight crew consists the Pilot, Copilot, Combat Information Center Officer (CICO), Air Control Officer (ACO), and the Radar Officer(RO). The three system operators work independently in all operational roles: sensor utilization, monitoring and control of the tactical situation and relay of tactical information to key battle group participants. They can monitor a large number of aircraft at any given time, directing strike aircraft to assigned targets, in fair weather or foul, while maintaining a watch for hostile forces within the long range of their radar. Working as a team, the Hawkeyes surround the fleet with an early warning ring capable of directing air defenses against any enemy.
Capable of all-weather carrier operations, the Hawkeye has great flexibility in assignments owing to its sophisticated electronics equipment. An integral component of the carrier air wing, the E-2C carries three primary sensors: radar, IFF, and a passive detection system. These sensors are integrated through a general purpose computer that enables the E-2C to provide early warning, threat analyses, and control of counter action against air and surface targets. The long range, high resolution radar, working with identification-friend-or-foe (IFF) and passive detection systems through associated computers, not only develops a picture of the operating environment, but also provides real-time information to air defence centers where command decisions are made.
From it's operating altitude, above 25,000 feet, the E-2C extends the radar horizon by overcoming the line of sight limitations imposed on surface based radar systems by the curvature of the Earth. Flying at high altitudes and far out in front of the battle group, the E-2C detects targets well before they can present a threat. Fighter-size targets are detected at well beyond 200 nautical miles, larger bomber-sized contacts even further. While monitoring more than three million cubic feet of airspace, the radar also detects contacts on over 150,000 square miles of ocean surface. Any maritime contact, moving or stationary, can be detected even in high sea states. The 24-foot revolving radar dish rotates at six rpm, and can be retracted two feet to facilitate stowage aboard a carrier. The lift produced by the radar dish when the plane is in flight is sufficient to offset its own weight.
The E-2C can use the enemy's capability for benefit. Using a passive detection system (PDS) unique in the AEW world, the weapon system operators can detect and localize active radar transmitters. Operating in total silence the PDS simply listens, intercepting signals from other electronic emitters to alert the HAWKEYE's three AEW operators to potential threats long before they come into radar range. These detections can often be made well in excess of the radar detection range, providing the battle group commander with early warning of impending threats.
High target density environments pose no problems for the E-2C. Its central processing system can automatically keep track of several hundred separate targets. Target course, speed, altitude and identification (friend or foe) are continually maintained in the computer file for display in flight and/or real-time transmission to the ground. HAWKEYE thus gives the air-defense commander the most complete, up-to-the-minute picture possible of the tactical situation. The E-2C controls friendly aircraft for pinpoint interceptions through high speed data links. The system can maintain more than 2,000 tracks simultaneously. Track data includes course, speed, altitude and identification of all radar, IFF and passive targets in the computer files.
Though the HAWKEYE can operate independently, it normally functions as an extension of existing air-defense systems. All data obtained aboard the plane can be relayed over UHF or HF data links to a surface command post for display and decision making. Simultaneously, target information from other elements or from the command post itself can be transmitted to the E-2C to be correlated with onboard data and passed to Airwing assets performing missions supporting the Operational Commander.
Since the E-2C carries no weapons, the information it gathers is worth nothing if it can't be transmitted to a weapons-delivery platform. Its Airborne Tactical Data System (ATDS), consisting of an auto-detection radar, airborne computers, and a memory and data link system, is tied to the Naval Tactical Data System (NTDS), located at fleet headquarters, which gives an overall picture of the tactical situation. The communications suite of the E-2C includes six UHF radios, of which three are also VHF capable, as well as two HF radios. The aircraft can use two digital data links to automatically relay tactical information to the battle force ships and to aircraft under E-2C control. The E-2C can also update its tracks with amplifying data received from other platforms, greatly increasing the information available to the E-2C Mission Commander, making him probably the best informed person in the battle group.
The Hawkeye can stay on station for more than five hours, and can cruise on station for more than four hours and 200 miles from it's base. Hawkeye combines fuel economy with short takeoff capability. The E-2C is powered by two Allison T56-A-425 turboprop engines, developing a maximum of 4,600 Indicated Horse Power. The engines provide high speed (13,820 RPM) low-torque output. A reduction gear assembly provides a constant speed (1,106 RPM), using variable pitch Hamilton-Standard propellers to adjust speed. The Hawkeye's T56 engines and propellers are what gives it the nickname "Hummer." Those eight spinning blades are also the reason for the E2C's reputation as the biggest personnel hazard on the flight deck. "Don't walk through prop arcs!" is repeated like a mantra from the first day on board until check out.
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