the U.S. Navy only began introducing the latest upgrade of its E-2 radar
aircraft, the E-2C 2000, four years ago, an even more ambitious program, in the
form of an entirely new aircraft, has already arrived. The first E-2D, with the
new APY-9 radar, will begin flight testing this Summer, and will enter service
in about four years. The new radar can detect smaller and stealthier targets,
especially cruise missiles. New software and more powerful computers also
enable the APY-9 to detect small boats, and even vehicles on land. Better
computer displays in the cockpit allow the copilot to act as a fourth system
operator. More automation in the flight controls make it easier for one pilot
to handle all the flight chores.
The navy will buy 75 of
the new E-2Ds, for $233 million each. The new E-2Ds are expected to serve for
about 25 years, with several upgrades along the way. Five other nations use the
E-2, and over a hundred are in use.