Residents of southern Maryland might have noticed a strange silhouette flying in the skies over Naval Air Station Patuxent River recently.
Marking another naval milestone, the Naval Research Laboratory recently accepted delivery of the Navy's first Combined Engagement Capability (CEC)/Hawkeye 2000 equipped NP-3D. In an acceptance ceremony at Lockheed's Greenville, S.C., rework facilities, NRL's commanding officer, Capt. Bruce Buckley, heralded the mission capabilities the newly modified P-3 would bring to the Navy, not only in its present configuration, but as a platform for future naval science and technology applications.
On top of the orange and white painted P-3 sits a radar dome similar to that found on the E-2C Hawkeye Airborne Early Warning aircraft. Inside, not only does the P-3 contain the Hawkeye 2000 airborne early warning suite, but also a CEC common equipment set, designed to provide battle force commanders with detailed battlespace updates.
P-3 followers may be interested to know that airborne surveillance command and control (ASC2) capability is achieved through numerous aircraft and missions systems modifications. The Hawkeye 2000 system incorporates numerous enhancements, including CEC and state-of-the-art computer that processes information to advanced control indicator set (ACIS) displays.
Also included is a satellite communication suite, a 15-ton vapor cycle environmental control system (to meet the increased equipment cooling requirements), a fourth electrical generator and the addition of a second ground power receptacle to meet the extraordinary AEW/CEC power requirements. The aircraft has wing wiring to support six external wing mounted pods, fore and aft mounted antenna platforms, a retractable infrared detection system (IRDS) and internal 115V/60hZ electronics equipment mounting areas. Intercom switches and navigational data are available at all stations.
The aircraft concept was developed jointly by teams at the Naval Research Laboratory, the Cooperative Engagement Capability Program Office, PMS-465, and the E-2C Program Office, PMA-231.
Initial airworthiness tests are complete and the aircraft is now located at the NRL Flight Support Detachment at Pax for further ground and mission flight tests.
As configured now, NRL's unique P-3 will enable command and control, electronic warfare, and electro-optics research and development well into the 21st century.
(NRL news release)