The US is willing to offer its most advanced maritime spy plane, the advanced Hawkeye-2D, to India.
According to a report in the forthcoming issue of India Strategic defence magazine, the Indian Navy had issued an RFI (Request for Information) for the aircraft to the US government some time back.
Although Washington is yet to release this aircraft for export "it could be sold to countries like India, Egypt, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)", the report added.
The aircraft is still under development and Northrop Grumman, its manufacturer, should achieve initial operational capability in 2011. Its first test flight was conducted only in August.
The advanced Hawkeye-2D looks like the existing Hawkeye-2C but will be much different and better with improved performance.
It will feature the new APY-9 spy radar, radio suite, mission computer, integrated satellite communications capability, flight management system, improved engines, a new "glass" cockpit and the ability to refuel in-flight.
A Grumman-built AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar will form part of the spy radar system. This AESA will feature a 360-degree, all-weather rotodome antenna and space-time adaptive processing, digital receivers, Adaptive Detection System (ADS) -18/rotary coupler assembly with a co-aligned IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) suite.
Sources told India Strategic that the Indian Navy had no interest in the existing Hawkeye-2C but the fact that the US was willing to offer a system virtually at the same time as its own navy would induct it, was important. "The new technology is tempting."
Sources in Washington confirmed India's interest and said, "As and when a formal request is received from New Delhi, the answer should be positive."
The Indian Navy also wanted the aircraft to be capable of staying in the air for eight hours, instead of six in the existing aircraft.
"Suitable modifications are being planned in the new aircraft by adding wet wings, that is, wings capable of carrying fuel," the sources said. Besides, the midair refuelling capability would enhance this capability further.
Of about a dozen operators of the existing aircraft, only the US Navy and the French Aviation Navale use their Hawkeyes for shipboard operations, for which they have folding wings. For shore-based operations, as in the case for India, the wings could be conventional with fuel-carrying capacity.
It may be noted that unlike the Lockheed Martin P3C Orions, or the Boeing P8I - another modern aircraft under development - the Hawkeyes do not carry any weapons and are pure intelligence and command and control aircraft.
The Orions and the Boeing P8s are designed for much longer ranges and midair staying capability of 16 hours, and also carry anti ship and submarine weapons like the Harpoons.
According to a Northrop Grumman statement, "the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye delivers battle management, theatre air and missile defence, and multiple sensor fusion capabilities in an airborne system. These advances provide war fighters with the necessary situational awareness to compress the time between initial awareness and active engagement.
"The E-2D Advanced Hawkeye is a game changer in how the Navy will conduct battle management command and control. By serving as the 'digital quarterback' to sweep ahead of strike, manage the mission, and keep the net-centric carrier battle groups out of harms way, the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye is the key to advancing the mission, no matter what it may be."
The new aircraft will have a crew of five, including the pilot, co-pilot and three mission operators. Two Rolls Royce T56 engines will power the propeller-driven aircraft.
Development costs for the aircraft are being funded by the US government, which will buy at least 75 of them for its navy.
Northrop Grumman Corporation is a $30billion global defence and technology company providing innovative systems, products, and solutions in information and services, electronics, aerospace and shipbuilding to government and commercial customers worldwide. It set up an India office earlier this year.