US defence firm Northrop Grumman, which is looking to sell six E-2C Hawkeye 2000 airborne early warning aircraft to the Indian Navy, has been invited by Naval Headquarters to clear concerns that the system may not be suitable for the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier that India is in the process of acquiring. The company’s Director (AEW programmes) David Murray will be meeting the Navy’s controller of warship production and acquisition, Vice-Admiral J.S. Bedi, on February 14.
The Navy first sent a request for information (RFI) to Northrop Grumman in early 2004, the company replied with details of the Hawkeye 2000 in October. However, while the Hawkeye needs a catapult jump on an aircraft carrier, the Gorshkov has a ski jump, and so do the INS Viraat and the Air Defence Ship currently being built indigenously. The Hawkeye 2000 would be used by the Navy to guide carrier-borne MiG-29s and Harriers on fleet-defending and combat missions.
Murray told The Indian Express: ‘‘We did an assessment with the US Navy, and now believe that it is possible to launch the Hawkeye, with appropriate modifications, from the Gorshkov’s angle deck in the absence of a catapult jump. We will present our findings to the Navy next week, constituting a second order level of detail of the assessment we have made.’’
The Hawkeye is the only dedicated Naval carrier-borne fixed wing AWACS aircraft in the export market today.
While Northrop Grumman will have to prove through a demonstration that the Hawkeye can be deployed from the Gorshkov or Viraat’s angle decks, for now it will use ‘‘existing US Navy performance charts, engineering models, open source information on Gorshkov’s dimensions and meteorological conditions in the Indian Ocean — since we know the dimensions and statistics of MiG-29 fighters used off the Gorshkov, we will use that data as well in our study’’.