In 1968, the development of two other versions started because some of the instruments aboard the E-2A were not very reliable. This resulted in the creation of the E-2B and the E-2C. Based on Vietnam experience, an improved model with a better computer, the E-2B, was developed, first flying on 20 February 1969. A total of 51 E-2As got the new AN/APS-120 radar and became E-2Bs.
The E-2A was updated starting in 1969 to the E-2B. The E-2 was designed as a Airborne Early Warning platform. The E-2B can track upto 300 targets both in the air and on the surface or ground. By 1974, 50 of the E-2As were retrofitted with improved avionics and computers and were designated as E-2Bs. The normal compliment of four E-2s per carrier has become an essential part of an air-wing's operations, providing both early warning, and command and control capabilities. Most E-2A's were modified to E-2B status with the installation of the Litton L-304 general purpose computer and are barely distinguishable from the outside. A few E-2B's remained operational in the US Navy until 1986.
During Vietnam the E-2A and E-2B saw combat operations supporting missions such as Strike attack vectoring, Fighter control and surface surveillance and control. Degraded radar coverage overland negated Hawkeye's effectiveness.
On 1 July 1967 RVAW-120 was commissioned as Wing Twelve's training squadron with a formalized training mission. The squadron received the second generation E-2B Hawkeye aircraft in 1970, followed by the arrival of the E-2C on 31 May 1973.
VAW-125, known as the "Torch Bearers" or "Tigertails," was commissioned on October 1, 1968, at Naval Air Station, Norfolk. The squadron's first assignment was with Carrier Air Wing Three (CVW-3) aboard USS Saratoga (CVA 60). While with CVW-3, VAW-125 became the first East Coast squadron to take delivery of the new E-2B "Hawkeye."
USS America (CV-66) participated from 16 to 27 August 1971 in National Week X, one of the largest exercises conducted in the Mediterranean. During the exercise, on 26 August, an E-2B Hawkeye was flown by VAW-124 nonstop across the Atlantic. The Hawkeye left NAS Norfolk, Va., flew over Newfoundland, Canada, and Lajes, Azores. to reach America in the Med. At the termination of the exercise, America proceeded to Corfu, Greece, her next liberty port. She then visited Athens shortly thereafter.
In North Island, California, on 01 July 1974, the VAW-117 Wallbangers became the newest edition to the Airborne Early Warning community. Within 3 months of its conception VAW-117 received its first aircraft, an E-2B Hawkeye. One year later, in October of 1975, VAW-117 embarked upon USS INDEPENDENCE (CV-62) for its inaugural deployment as an operational squadron. Nearly fifteen years after the first aircraft arrived in San Diego, the Bangers transitioned to the Grumman E-2C Plus.
VAW-115 was the last ACTIVE DUTY squadron to operate the E-2B. Every E-2B on public display today was last operated by VAW-88, a RESERVE E-2 squadron at NAS Miramar, CA (now a MCAS). As they transitioned to the E-2C in the 1985 time frame they flew several airframes to other Naval Air Stations for a second career.
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