Northrop Grumman's newest version of the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye has made its maiden flight. The latest iteration of the carrier-borne turboprop airborne early warning aircraft – designed for the US Navy starting in the late 1950s – the new Hawkeye now has the ability to refuel in the air from a tanker aircraft. This allows it to remain on station longer and operate at longer range.

Northrop says that the upgrade was carried out under a 2013 engineering, manufacturing, and development contract and included the development and testing of subsystems needed to allow the aircraft to refuel in flight. In addition, the new Hawkeye includes long-endurance seats for better cockpit visibility and reducing flight crew fatigue on long missions.

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The E-2D Advanced Hawkeye first rolled out in 2007 and features new systems built around Lockheed Martin's APY-9 radar with its distinctive rotating radome. It carries a crew of five with the pilot and co-pilot sitting in a "glass cockpit" that replaces traditional gauges with large LCD readouts, while in the aft fuselage are the combat information center officer, air control officer, and radar operator. The aircraft also sports T56-A-427A engines, an advanced radio suite, mission computer, and satellite communications.

According to Northrop, three more upgraded Hawkeyes will undergo tests through 2018, with production and re-fits to start that same year.

"First flight is an exciting day in the journey from concept to an aerial refueling equipped E-2D," says Jane Bishop, vice president of E-2/C-2 programs. "This takes the E-2D to another level, which will bring more combat persistence to the US and our allies."

Source: Northrop Grumman View gallery - 2 images