France will begin upgrading its E-2C Hawkeye fleet with the purchase of three E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, paving the way to a more capable carrier aviation fleet that’s more interoperable with the U.S. Navy.
Naval Air Systems Command announced this week that France became the second foreign customer for the E-2D when it signed a Letter of Offer and Acceptance last month to procure three E-2Ds from the U.S. Navy, for a maximum value of $2 billion. The U.S. State Department cleared the sale in July, paving the way for France’s final decision in December.
“The E-2/C-2 program office is looking forward to continuing a longstanding partnership with France and beginning a new chapter with the E-2D,” Capt. Pete Arrobio, program manager of the E-2/C-2 Airborne Command & Control Systems Program Office, said in the Jan. 5 statement.
“This procurement will increase interoperability among the U.S. Fleet and international partners.”
The three Northrop Grumman-made E-2Ds are scheduled to be delivered by 2028 and will replace the three existing E-2C Hawkeyes of the French Navy, called the Marine Nationale, the statement said.
In 2018, USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) hosted an integrated air wing of U.S. and French fighters and E-2s: American F/A-18E-F Super Hornets and E-2D Advanced Hawkeyes, and French Dassault Rafale M fighters and E-2C Hawkeyes.
“Navy to navy, it strengthens the alliance together. It strengthens for me, as a strike group commander, to be able to have the confidence that we can integrate with our French allies at sea with any mission we’re assigned,” Rear Adm. Stephen Evans, who served as the commander of the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group (CSG-2) at the time, told USNI News during a media visit to the carrier.
With France upgrading to the same variant as the U.S., the interoperability would be even further enhanced, allowing the two navies to share spare parts or conduct maintenance on each other’s aircraft if they were operating together under some kind of international task group.
France is making other investments in the future of its carrier aviation, with President Emmanuel Macron announcing last month that France would design and build a nuclear-powered PANG (Porte Avion Nouvelle Generation, or next-generation aircraft carrier) ship to replace flagship FS Charles de Gaulle (R91) around 2038.
NAVAIR noted in its news release that the Advanced Hawkeye “features a state-of-the-art radar and upgraded aircraft systems that improve supportability and increase readiness. The centerpiece of the E-2D AHE is the APY-9 radar system, designed specifically to provide enhanced surveillance detection and tracking capability against advanced threat aircraft and cruise missile systems in the overland, littoral, and open ocean environments. With the addition of aerial refueling capabilities, the E-2D remains the most advanced command and control platform in the world.”
Japan has already purchased 13 E-2Ds for its fleet in the Japan Air Self Defense Force.