April 11 (UPI) -- Northrop Grumman has been awarded a five-year $3.2 billion contract to produce 24 E-2D Advanced Hawkeye early warning aircraft for the U.S. Navy.
Work on the carrier-based aircraft, which Northrop Grumman describes as "a game changer in how the Navy will conduct battle management command and control," is expected to be completed in August 2026, the Defense Department announced Wednesday.
The contract provides full-rate production Lots 7-11 for the E-2D AHE aircraft, which are nicknamed "Super Fudd" because it replaced the E-1 Tracer "Willy Fudd."
The company said it has completed all major production milestones on time, including delivering 37 E-2D to the U.S. Navy to date under the current program of record. On Aug. 3, 2007, Northrop Grumman completed its successful first flight of the plane.
Northrop Grumman said it plans to deliver a series of capability upgrades. The third upgrade is slated for release this fall, including an aerial refueling capability to significantly extend the aircraft's endurance.
"This aircraft continues to demonstrate its strategic value to our warfighters with early warning, command and control," Northrop Grumman's Jane Bishop, vice president and integrated product team leader, manned airborne surveillance programs, said in a statement Thursday. "With this contract, we'll continue production of these highly specialized aircraft while delivering innovative solutions that outpace advancing threats over the life of the fleet."
With its radar technology, E-2D works with ship-, air- and land-based combat systems to track and defeat air, ship and cruise missiles at extended range. The aircraft also can also be used in a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capacity for civilian emergency coordination.
Twenty percent of the will be performed at its plant in Melbourne, Fla., 19 percent each in St. Augustine, Fla., and Syracuse, N.Y. Five percent or less of the work will be done in El Segundo, Menlo Park, Torrance and Woodland Hills, Calif.; Rolling Meadows, Ill.; Air-sur-l'Adour, France; Owego, N.Y.; Greenlawn and Edgewood, N.Y.; Windsor Locks, Conn.; Marlboro, Mass.; Independence and West Chester, Ohio. Fourteen percent will be done in other locations within the continental United States.
Naval fiscal 2019 aircraft procurement in the amount of $943.6 million has been obligated at time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the fiscal year.
The E-2 is a twin engine, five crewmember, high-wing turboprop aircraft, according to a Navy fact sheet.
The system serves as a "digital quarterback," according to Northrop Grumman, by sweeping ahead of strike, managing the mission and keeping carrier battle groups out of harms way.
"The E-2D Advanced Hawkeye is the key to advancing the mission, no matter what it may be," Northrop Grumman said on its website. "The E-2D gives the warfighter expanded battlespace awareness, especially in the area of information operations delivering battle management, theater air and missile defense, and multiple sensor fusion capabilities in an airborne system."