Pictures taken by Japanese plane spotter “Seagull-jap” in March show two new E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft in (covered) Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) markings. These two new aircraft have the number 473-169322 and 474-169323. According to the plane spotter, they landed in Japan on March 7 at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni (also known as MCAS Iwakuni 岩国飛行場, Iwakuni hikōjō).
Following some test flights in Iwakuni, the two aircraft are set to transition to Misawa Air Base (三沢飛行場, Misawa Hikōjō) located in Aomori Prefecture in Northern Japan. This is where the JASDF 601st Squadron is based, operating the Japanese E-2Ds is based.
The first JASDF E-2D was delivered by Northrop Grumman in March 2019. It bares the number 471. It is not clear where aircraft 472 (which should be Japan’s second) is as there is no picture showing it and it doesn’t seem to be on Japanese soil. One possibility is that this E-2D is in the United States and is used there to train JASDF pilots.
In addition to the four E-2Ds ordered in November 2015, July 2016, June 2018 and October 2018, Japan requested an additional nine aircraft under a USD3.135 billion proposed Foreign Military Sale, bringing the total to 13 E-2Ds. The JASDF currently operates a fleet of 13 E-2C Hawkeye and four E-767 aircraft as part of its Airborne Early Warning (AEW) Wing. The E-2Cs will all be phased out of the service by the late 2020s.
About E-2D Advanced Hawkeye
Built by Northrop Grumman, the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye is the latest variant of the E-2 Airborne early warning aircraft, replacing the E-2C Hawkeye. It brings revolutionary capabilities to the carrier strike group, including the new and powerful AN/APY-9 radar, which is a two-generational leap in technology.
The APY-9 radar is an Ultra High Frequency (UHF) surveillance system that provides both mechanical and electronic scanning capabilities designed to “see” smaller targets – and more of them – at a greater range, particularly in coastal regions and over land.
The U.S. Navy has awarded a multi-year procurement contract to Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. for the purchase of 24 E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft in full rate production for fiscal years 2019-2023. This is the second MYP contract awarded to NGSC. The Navy awarded the first in 2014 for the production of 25 E-2D aircraft. The U.S. congress later increased the number to 26 aircraft bringing the total number of E-2Ds on order for the U.S. Navy to 50 aircraft.
On the export side, Japan has 13 E-2D while France is set to procure three new Advanced Hawkeyes to replace the in service E-2C Hawkeyes.
E-2D and CEC
Japan’s E-2D should be able to interact with the JMSDF newly commissioned Maya-class of AEGIS destroyers more closely and efficiently thanks to the Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC). The CEC allows the ship to receive targeting information from other assets, such as US Navy and Royal Australian Navy AEGIS destroyers or American and Japanese E-2D aircraft.
According to Japanese defense reporter Yoshihiro Inaba, Japan’s E-2D won’t have the CEC capability from the get go however: They will need an upgrade at some point. Indeed, E-2Ds numbered 471 to 474 (the first four JASDF E-2D) are missing the USG-3B, a system necessary for CEC.
The AN/USG-3B acts as the CEC Sensor Netting System. It is produced by DRS Laurel Technologies.
According to the Japanese Minister of Defense, this system will be installed at a later date. According to Inaba, the most probable possibility is that USG-3B will be installed on the E-2Ds once the SM-6 missile are fitted aboard the Maya-class destroyers. It will be interesting to see if Japan’s E-2Ds from the second batch will come with USG-3B already installed.