Aug. 4 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy is moving forward with plans to make the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, an early warning aircraft described as the "eyes of the fleet," fully capable of completing missions by September.
Capt. Pete Arrobio, a Navy program manager, announced plans for upgrades to the E-2Ds, which use radar technology to track and respond to air, ship and cruise missiles, USNI News reported.
Arrobio, speaking at the Navy League's Sea-Air-Space Expo at National Harbor, Md., Tuesday, said that while the E-2D is still in production, it is "being asked to do more than originally anticipated," and there are "risks we can no longer accept."
"It even has that new-aircraft smell," he said. "But the architecture and systems and components for this cockpit, as well as the back end, were designed when flip phones were on the stage -- 2005."
Enhancements to the E-2Ds will focus on its software system and will include better defenses to its computer and displays against enemy cyberattacks. The Navy has 48 E-2Ds with four more on the way from Northrop Grumman, which was awarded a five-year, $3.2 billion contract to produce 24 more of the aircraft in 2019.
The Navy's goal is to have 22 fully mission-capable aircraft in the fleet at all times by Sept. 1.
"Fully mission capable is what wins the war," Robbio said.
Seapower magazine reported that the E-2D has 11 major mission systems that need to be maintained. Three of nine E-2Ds ordered by Japan have been delivered. France has signed a letter of agreement to purchase three.
In May, a Navy strike group departed Japan for deployment in the Indo-Pacific region that included an E-2D.