GRUMMAN E-2B HAWKEYE The need to detect both surface and airborne targets beyond the line of sight led the Navy to develop a Naval Tactical Data System that would provide a Task Force Commander with all the information on ships and aircraft (both friendly and enemy) in his zone of responsibility. A key element in this system was an airborne early warning aircraft that, in addition to carrying long range search radar, would carry digital computers that automatically detect targets and select the best available fighter to conduct the intercept. It also had to carry the automated communication and data links necessary to do its job with minimum crew.

The first Grumman W2F-1 Hawkeye (E-2A) flew in October of 1961, with first fleet operations commencing in January of 1964. There were 59 E-2A aircraft delivered by 1967. By 1974, 50 of these 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.

The latest variant of the Hawkeye, the E-2C, is still in production, and, with the updating of both avionics and airframe, will be a vital asset well into the 21st century.

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