The new Northrop Grumman E-2D Advanced Hawkeye Early Warning and Control aircraft of the US Navy will embark on its first ever operational cruise on 9 March 2015. The “Tigertails” – the nickname of VAW-125 – will be trying to keep the aircraft carrier group formed around the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) out of harm’s way, when the task force leaves Norfolk, Virginia, USA.
The E-2D has a new radar, new radios, a new mission computer, integrated satcom, a flight managment system and better engines. It has new avionics in a so-called “glass cockpit” (all digital stuff) and is able to refuel in mid-air. Although its first flight was in August 2007, it has taken a while for the first USN unit to become operational on the type.
One of the new features is that the E-2D is now able to for example help direct anti-air missiles to intercept incoming cruise missiles, as was shown in a test in 2009. Navy sources say that the Hawkeye crews should even be able to help target medium-range air-to-air missiles to their targets, once launched by other navy fighter jets. The new APY-9 radar should make it able for the Hawkeye to detect new stealthy fighters, like the Russian-made Sukhoi PAK-FA.
The Northrop Grumman E-2D is a further development of the Grumman E-2 already in service since 1964. The US Navy has ordered 50 aircraft so far, with 15 aircraft delivered. VAW-125 is the first operational squadron, flying five E-2Ds. Each USN AEW&C squadron will operate four or five Advanced Hawkeyes in the near future.
UPDATED 20 FEBRUARY 2015 | Cope North Guam 2015 (CNG15), a multinational exercise of the United States and its closest allies facing China, is underway in the Pacific. The Republic of Korea Air Force (South Korea), the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) and the Royal Australian Air Force are participating, as well as the US armed forces of course. Epicentre of the operations: Andersen Air Force Base.
CNG15 involves a large force employment performing simulated air combat and disaster relief operations according to various scenarios. For the Royal Australian Air Force this is the fourth time its personnel and aircraft are participating. To underline its importance the RAAF’s contribution is substantial: eight McDonnell Douglas (Boeing) F/A-18A/B Hornet multi-role fighters, a Airbus KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport and Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules.
The US Air Force has – amongst other assets – B-52s, F-15s, F-16s, KC-135s and C-130s in the area. Japan deployed indigenous Mitsubishi F-2 multi-role fighters and McDonnell Douglas (Boeing) F-15s, as well as C-130s, a KC-767J and the E-2C Hawkeye. The exact contribution of South Korea was not clear at the time of writing, but some of the images released by the RAAF give a minor clue. According to the exercise leaders officers of the Royal New Zealand Air Force and the Philippine Air Force are participating as well, but whether they bring their own aircraft was not confirmed.
Cope North Guam 2015 runs from 15 to 27 February. Corporal David Gibbs of the Royal Australian Air Force’s 28SQN AFID-EDN is at Andersen and made some nice shots!
There is a big risk that the first Carrier Air Wing to board the newly build US aircraft carrier CVN 78 USS Gerald R Ford will have to operate in far less than ideal situations. The General Accountability Office (GAO) – or the guys and girls that keep track of government spending – slapped the US Department of Defense on the wrist on 20 November 2014. Roughly translated: the US military will have a ship – and with that the air wing on board – that is far less capable to enter combat then it’s supposed to be.
The most disturbing part for the aviators is the number of aircraft launches and landings, that seems to be less than what they need in order to be effective. The GAO puts it like this: “The Navy will have a ship that is less complete than initially planned at ship delivery, but at a greater cost.” And even after the Ford will be handed over in 2016 the US tax payers have to cough up an additional US$ 988 million to finish the semi-ready vessel, on top of the US$ 12.9 billion the vessel already is supposed to cost.
Aircraft that will board the Ford will be launched by electromagnetic catapults, in stead of the steam-powered launch facilities on the current 10 Nimitz-class vessels and all its modern predecessors. But so far the innovation has not promised the required amount of launches in a certain time frame, meaning the ship might be put into a war situation without having the necessary capabilities. That means the F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, EA-18G Growlers, E-2 Hawkeyes and maybe even the future F-35Cs will be operate from a base that is in less than ideal conditions.
The electromagnetic field that will propel the aviators off the ship would in theory enable them as to bring along more than 225 percent additional weaponry or other payload, compared to the current situation on the Nimitz-class carriers. This would make it easier for the air crew to either hit the target harder or conduct longer missions with less aerial refuellings.
CVN 79 USS John F Kennedy, the second Ford-class carrier, is on its way as well. But considering the current criticism the question is why the rush when even its brother Ford is disappointing. “After the planned investment CVN 78 may not achieve improved operational performance over the Nimitz class of aircraft carriers as promised for some time to come,” according to the GAO report.
Japan. Land of sushi and Fuji, konichiwa and arigato, of geishas, gadgets, yakuza, sake and manga, the excitingly weird and eccentric metropolis that is Tokyo – and above all, land of endless opportunities for aviation photographers such as Robert van Zon. Last month, he boarded a plane bound for Japan and only returned home after stuffing his memory cards with fantastic aviation images from the land of the rising sun. At AIRheads↑FLY, we’ re already looking for the next available flights.
Autumn is usually the time of year for Japanese airshows. On October 27, Tsuiki airbase set the stage for a Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) airshow, featuring based F-15J Eagles and Mitsubishi F-2 fighter aircraft from Kyushu, the southern main island of Japan. Things are about to change at Tsuiki however, as Japan wishes to reinforce its assets further south at Okinawa. The F-15J Eagles of Tsuiki-based 304 Hikotai will likely move to Okinawa. Their space at Tsuiki will be taken up by additional F-2s from Misawa in the north. This will make Tsuiki ‘Mitsubishi F-2’ heaven in the future.
A few hours by car south of Tsuiki is Kanoya, the place to be for Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) aircraft. Kanoya is the most southern military airfield on the Japanese mainland. Most prominent inmates here are the many P-3C Orions that guard Japans coastal waters. The base also houses helicopters of several types, though.
Want more military choppers? Akeno is where to go in Japan. The airbase is small but houses a large number of army helicopters in varying shapes and sizes. You name it: AH-1 Cobras, UH-1 Hueys, CH-47 Chinooks, AH-64 Apaches, locally developed OH-1 light attack & recce helicopters, OH-6 Cayuses, UH-60 Black Hawks, it’s all there, as is the helicopter pictured below.
If there ever was a prize for great sounding airfield names, Hamamatsu would definitely be a contender. The airbase is home to Boeing E-767 tanker AWACS aircraft, plus large amounts of Kawasaki T-4s, a Japanese crossover between the British Aerospace Hawk and the Dassault Dornier Alpha Jet. On October 20, Hamamatsu hosted an open house.
If you find yourself in Japan and you fancy the ‘special’ stuff, then maybe Gifu is where you should go. The airfield is located north of Nagoya and is home to the Hiko Kaihatsu Jikkendan, which more or less stands for test squadron. In recent years, Gifu was the birth place for aircraft like the Kawasaki P-1 and the Kawasaki C-2, seen below.
Want the good stuff, the noise, the smell, the looks, the raw power of military jets? Then look no further than Hyakuri. This airbase north of Tokyo is a mandatory stop for aviation geeks because of its based F-15J Eagles and F-4EJ and RF-4EJ Phantoms. It doesn’t get much better than that, and bear in mind; the Phantom’s days in JASDF are counting. Their numbers are dwindling and their successor – the F-35A Lightning II – will enter the stage in a few years time.
After Hyakuri, everything else is a bonus. Here’s some dessert from Nagoya Komaki, the airfield that is home to the JASDF C-130 Hercules fleet and Boeing 767 tanker aircraft. Mitsubishi Aircraft performs maintenance here on a variety of military aircraft. Last but not least, all of the 94 Mitsubishi F-2s ordered by the JASDF were built here.
Many, many (and we do mean ‘many’) thanks of course to Robert van Zon for sharing his pictures here at AIRheads↑FLY . We do appreciate contributions by readers!
The US Navy aircraft carrier CVN 73 USS George Washington currently patrols the waters west of the Korean peninsula. George Washington and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, provide a combat-ready force that the US is currently using to support its operations and deterrence in Southeast Asia.
The CVW-5 aircraft are attached to the “Diamondbacks” of Strike Fight Squadron (VFA) 102 flying the F/A-18F Super Hornet; the “Royal Maces” of VFA-27, the “Eagles” of VFA-115 and the “Dambusters” VFA-195 each flying the F/A-18E Super Hornet; the “Shadowhawks” of Electronic Attack Squadron 141 flying the EA-18G Growler; VAW-115 flying the E-2C Hawkeye; the “Providers” of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 30, Detachment 5, flying the C-2A Greyhound; the “Golden Falcons” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 12 flying the MH-60S Seahawk; and the “Saberhawks” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 77 flying the MH-60R Seahawk.
Carrier Air Wing 5 is the US Navy’s “911” air wing, meaning when there is a crisis somewhere it is likely to be send in as first response. CVW-5 is comprised of nine squadrons with approximately 1,900 sailors and 67 aircraft.