The US Navy has new eyes in the sky out in the Pacific

Okay let’s be honest, it’s the combat planes that get most of the attention.

What airplane did “Top Gun” turn into a star? The F-14 Tomcat. “Iron Eagle’s” sex appeal came from the spritely F-16 Fighting Falcon. Even “Flight of the Intruder” made the portly A-6 Intruder attack plane the belle of the ball.

An E-2D Hawkeye and a C-2A Greyhound assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 20 fly over USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) as the ship travels to its new home port of San Diego, California. Zumwalt was commissioned in Baltimore, Maryland, Oct. 15 and is the first in a three-ship class of the Navy's newest, most technologically advanced multi-mission guided-missile destroyers. (U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt/Released)

An E-2D Hawkeye and a C-2A Greyhound assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 20 fly over USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) as the ship travels to its new home port of San Diego, California. Zumwalt was commissioned in Baltimore, Maryland, Oct. 15 and is the first in a three-ship class of the Navy’s newest, most technologically advanced multi-mission guided-missile destroyers. (U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt/Released)

So, where does that leave some of the support planes? Out in the cold, and that just ain’t fair.

A Navy release on Oct. 21 centers on one of the most important planes in a carrier’s air wing – the E-2 Hawkeye airborne radar and control plane. Specifically, the new E-2D, which is making its Pacific Fleet debut with Air Wing 11 on board USS Nimitz (CVN 68), is a game-changer for the Sea Service.

The E-2D made its debut with the fleet last year with VAW-125 when USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) deployed to the Middle East, Mediterranean Sea, and in the Western Pacific.

The E-2 has been in service since 1964 – sharing the same airframe as the C-2 Greyhound carrier onboard delivery, or “COD,” aircraft. Initially, it used the AN/APS-138 radar, which was later replaced with the AN/APS-145.  The E-2C entered service in 1971, and since then has been continuously upgraded.

The E-2D, though, adds a new radar, the AN/APY-9. This Active Electronically Scanned Array radar not only provides more detection capability, it makes it harder for an opposing plane to know if it is being seen.

The E-2D has far more than better eyes, though. It also can help guide missiles like the AIM-120 AMRAAM and the RIM-174 SM-6 against aerial targets.

But wait, there’s more! The E-2D also has some other upgrades that will help make this plane even more of a game-changer than it was before. It will gain a mid-air refueling capability, enabling it to stay aloft longer. It also will feature a glass cockpit, which not only improves situational awareness for the crew, but will allow the plane’s co-pilot to serve as a tactical controller in emergencies.

So, give the E-2 its due. Without this plane, it’s a safe bet that Maverick and Iceman would probably have no idea where the bandits were until it was too late.

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