The US Navy has planned upgrades to the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye command-and-control aircraft for at least another 30 years, USNI News reported.
The Northrop Grumman-made carrier-based airborne early warning aircraft is the latest in the E-2 series, first taking flight in 2007.
The navy is scheduled to have 78 E-2Ds by 2025 as a replacement for E-2Cs. Forty-eight of the aircraft have already been delivered, with four more on the way this year.
Capt. Pete Arrobio, head of the Airborne Command and Control Systems Program Office at Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), said at a conference that the aircraft’s sustenance plan includes a series of upgrades including “cockpit avionics, enhancements to mission systems, communication capabilities, and cybersecurity,” USNI News reported.
Arrobio further revealed that the upgrades would be done through a “delta system software configuration” (DSSC) that will take four years to complete.
The aircraft is currently on the DSSC 3 version with 3.1 rolling out later this year, Arrobio revealed. He described version 3.1, saying that it will have elements of the “Joint Tactical Radio System and Link 16” to have the aircraft meet Department of Defense-mandated cybersecurity standards in 2021.
“It allows the linking, coordinating, distributing, and assessing the effects of targeting information at the tactical leading edge,” Arrobio said.
Version 4 will be rolled out in 2023 and 5 two years later, the outlet wrote, citing the NAVAIR officer.
DSSC 5 “includes upgrades that are vital to the warfighting effectiveness of the carrier strike group in an A2/AD (anti-access/area denial) environment,” the officer added.
The sixth software update will enable “interoperability with the Joint All-Domain Command-and-Control system and the Naval Operational Architecture.”
Finally, the E-2D’s mission computers and displays will be made more resistant to enemy cyber capabilities.
The navy is also considering an “improved landing mode” on the aircraft to land semi-automatically on a carrier.