VAW-117 Completes Carrier Qualifications on USS Gerald R. Ford, Transitions to E-2D Advanced Hawkeye

The U.S. Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), contributed to another milestone for naval aviation during carrier qualifications (CQ) for the Airborne Command and Control Squadron (VAW-117) “Wallbangers” on May 12.

Ten VAW-117 pilots successfully completed CQ with assistance from the VAW-120 “Greyhawks” in the operation of the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye tactical airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft. VAW-117 completed 151 catapults and 158 traps over the course of three days. The completion of the CQ prepares VAW-117 pilots for the finalization of their transition from E-2C Hawkeye to the E-2D AHE aircraft.

E-2D Advanced Hawkeye
An E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, assigned to the “Greyhawks” of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 120, prepares to land on USS Gerald R.Ford’s (CVN 78) flight deck during flight operations May 10, 2020. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman 3rd Class Zachary Melvin)

Lt. Cmdr. Jeremiah Caldwell, from Loudoun County, Virginia, a pilot assigned to VAW-117, explained some of the differences between the E-2C and the E-2D, and how his squadron is making the transition between aircraft.

“The E-2D is our latest and greatest aircraft that has a lot of good equipment and a really good radar that’s going to allow us to see our enemies at distances that we really haven’t seen before,” said Caldwell. “The training process for us is about three years just to get to the fleet, so we are here aboard Ford training fleet aviators that are making the transition from the Charlie to the Delta.”

With the completion of their CQ, VAW-117 is one step closer to being a fully-designated E-2D Advanced Hawkeye squadron. VAW-117 will return to their home station and begin training and integrating with their air wing for future missions and deployments. The squadron is on track to receive its “Safe for Flight” designation for the E-2D in July.

USS Gerald R. Ford is a first-in-class aircraft carrier and the first new carrier designed in more than 40 years. With more than 2,300 catapult launches and advanced arresting gear landings since commissioning, her tested and proven technology is delivering many improvements to the naval aviation enterprise.

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