SAN DIEGO - Aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and the "Blue Tails" of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 121 completed the first west coast aircraft carrier underway period with the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, Oct. 21.
VAW-121 and their upgraded Hawkeye began carrier qualifications Oct. 14.
According to Lt. Eric "Biscuit" Gunn, a naval flight officer assigned to VAW-121, the E-2D will bring a few operational advantages to Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 11.
"The E-2D opens and expands the battle space," said Gunn. "It is now able to see smaller targets at larger range. This really helps with our airborne early warning and tactical command control missions."
Some of the other improvements aboard the E-2D are more powerful turboprop engines and the future potential for air-to-air refueling.
Testing for the E-2D began at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, in 2007, leading to the aircraft's first launch and recovery at sea aboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Feb. 1, 2011. These test flights were conducted by Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 20 representatives over a six-day observation period, ultimately deeming the aircraft as effective in an operational shipboard environment.
The E-2D made its first operational appearance aboard the east coast-assigned aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) with the "Tiger Tails" of VAW 125 in March 2015.
VAW-121 launched their first E-2D from Naval Station Norfolk in November 2014. With two years of training and qualification with the E-2D, they are excited to bring the newest equipment to the operational front while aboard Nimitz.
"It has been a long transition," said Gunn, "but we are ready to get into the tactical and operational side."
Nimitz recently earned its flight deck certification after a 20-month extended planned incremental availability and is underway in preparation for a upcoming 2017 deployment.