The U.S. Navy E-2/C-2 Airborne Command & Control Systems Program Office (PMA-231) awarded a $34 million contract to Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems (NGAS) on Aug. 3 for the requirements phase of the engineering, manufacturing and development of the E-2D Hawkeye Cockpit Technical Refresh (HECTR).
The HECTR is a critical redesign of hardware and software components of the current E-2D Integration Navigation, Controls and Displays System (INCDS) as well as an integration of the cockpit solution into the weapon system. HECTR will use an E-2D Mission Computer Alternative, currently under development at PMA-209, as part of its design. The cockpit redesign will allow the platform to achieve Communication Navigation Surveillance/Air Traffic Management Required Navigation Performance Area Navigation capability.
“The fleet is very excited to be a part of the development of HECTR. This program demonstrates outstanding teamwork between the program office, industry and our fleet operators,” said Capt. Michael France, Commodore, Airborne Command & Control and Logistics Wing. “For decades, we have improved the weapon system of the Advanced Hawkeye, but the cockpit has remained largely unchanged. HECTR solves some of our obsolescence issues and brings new navigation and communication capability. With the AR variant of the E-2D as our new baseline, HECTR makes it safer for our crews who must land on the aircraft carrier after many hours of being on station “HECTR is an essential upgrade that brings the E-2D Hawkeye Cockpit into the 21st Century.”
The current INCDS cockpit includes many of the platform’s top readiness degraders as well as obsolete components. Additionally, current architecture of the INCDS cockpit will not support the E-2D mission in the Delta System Software Configuration (DSSC) 6 timeframe. For these reasons, PMA-231 began in fiscal 2020 to pursue a cockpit redesign, securing the ability to reallocate Multi-Year Procurement II (MYPII) savings to the critical cockpit upgrade through the Program Objective Memorandum (POM) cycle.
With the addition of the Aerial Refueling (AR) capability, the aircrew will experience greater workload and fatigue. The HECTR program goals will substantially change the pilot and co-pilot experience in the cockpit.
“HECTR will bring increased safety, decreased pilot workload and increased sustainability to the world’s only carrier based airborne command & control platform,” said France. “It is a welcome addition to the Advanced Hawkeye and one that will improve our combat readiness and flexibility.”
The E-2 is the last fixed-wing carrier based aircraft that lands on the aircraft carrier without a Heads-Up Display (HUD). Landing can be a difficult task for pilots due to nearly imperceptible wing dips that occur as a result of the lack of a readily available horizon reference and the slow “inside-outside” scan pattern required by the legacy cockpit design.
HECTR will integrate a HUD capability to reduce the E-2D pilot workload as well as improve situational awareness and correct current INCDS Human Machine Interface (HMI) deficiencies. The HUD will increase safety and decrease pilot workload for generations of Hawkeye pilots by providing horizon reference and increased visual scan speed for carrier landings, which will be especially beneficial at night and during adverse weather conditions.
HECTR will address current platform readiness issues in the INCDS cockpit by replacing readiness degraders and a concentrated focus on new reliability parameters. HECTR will replace the existing Avionics Flight Management Computer software with an open, modular, application-based software architecture. This architecture redesign will enable the program to sustain mission readiness and execution in DSSC-6 and beyond. The program design will also include exportable variants for potential foreign military sales partners.
The period of performance for this contract began Aug. 3 and runs through January 2022. HECTR is scheduled to field with DSSC-6 in fiscal year 2027.