Navy Awards E-2D LRIP

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By Paul McLeary

PARIS AIR SHOW — Northrop Grumman’s E-2D aircraft, the successor to the E-2 surveillance plane, has reached Milestone C certification and been awarded a fixed-price, incentive-free contract from the U.S. Navy for $432 million.

The award comes on the heels of the program announcing a breach of Nunn-McCurdy cost-growth caps. Responding to questions from reporters here about the Navy’s confidence in Northrop Grumman after the program’s Nunn-McCurdy breech, Northrop’s Jerry Spruill said that “the signing of the ADM, the execution of the Milestone C, the transition into LRIP, from the company’s perspective, is [evidence of] the confidence that the Navy is putting in us to execute within those cost constraints to get those costs under control.”

The contract covers two low-rate initial production (LRIP) Lot 1 aircraft, as well as two Lot 2 aircraft, and is a follow-on to the $1.9 billion E-2D Advanced Hawkeye System Development & Design contract awarded in 2003.

The Navy will receive two aircraft each in fiscal 2009-’10, with the program of record indicating that the Navy will purchase 75 aircraft in total.

Marcia Hart-Wise, a Navy public affairs officer, said that the changes after the Nunn-McCurdy breach “rebaselines the program,” and that the Navy is “very confident” that the issues are now being dealt with.

In March, congressional auditors reported that while the core technology appeared to have matured, programs delays were certain. Program officials told them initial operating capability would slip one-to-two years and there would be a 20 percent jump in unit cost due to recent budget cuts. The cuts were expected to trim off one of the three aircraft to be purchased in each of the first two low-rate initial production lots, in turn cutting the aircraft available to perform pilot and maintenance training ahead of first deployment.

Those setbacks further came on top of a 4-6 month delay from early flight testing, when the program experienced problems with high-power circulators, hydraulic lines, antenna power amplifier modules and inclement weather, according to the Government Accountability Office’s latest annual review of major defense programs.

As for the platform itself, Spruill said that “the entirety of the sensors and communications have changed” from the E-2C to the E-2D, and John Beaulieu, E2/C2 business development manager, remarked that the radar on the planes has been “outperforming specifications” during test flights.

During testing of the two prototypes, the aircraft have flown 1,000 hours during 300 flights, and the company and the Navy are planning a first arrested landing on an aircraft carrier some time late this year.

Photo: Northrop Grumman

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