Navy Hawkeye Crash in Virginia: Pilots, Crew Escape Safely

Navy Hawkeye Crash in Virginia: Pilots, Crew Escape Safely

  • A U.S. Navy E-2C Hawkeye airborne early warning and control plane crashed Monday in Virginia.
  • The four-person crew successfully escaped the aircraft and were rescued on the ground.
  • The Hawkeye’s high-powered radar makes it the eyes and ears of a carrier battle group.

    A U.S. Navy airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft crashed on Monday during a training flight over Virginia. All four crew members safely egressed from the aircraft and were rescued on the ground. The Navy has yet to indicate what caused the plane—the largest aircraft stationed on an American aircraft carrier—to crash.

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    At 3:50 p.m. on Monday, the Hawkeye went down on Wallops Island, the location of a NASA flight facility and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. A video from a local news station showed the aircraft plummeting to Earth, followed by a black cloud of smoke.

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    The E-2C Hawkeye normally flies with a crew of five: a pilot, copilot, combat information center (CIC) officer, aircraft control officer, and radar officer. The CIC, aircraft control, and radar officers sit in the rear of the plane monitoring data from the AN/APS-145 radar system.

    The AN/APS-145 is located in a large, 24-foot-wide circular radome mounted above the fuselage. The radar has a range of at least 341 miles and is capable of tracking up to 600 radar targets at once. It can also coordinate up to 40 intercepts simultaneously, vectoring friendly fighters in the direction of the plane.

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    Named for its ability to see threats hundreds of miles away, the Hawkeye is capable of detecting and classifying enemy aircraft, then vectoring in fighters such as the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet or F-35C Joint Strike fighter to intercept. This allows Navy fighters to intercept with their radars off, making them harder to detect.

    The Hawkeye can also detect high-flying ballistic missiles, low-flying cruise missiles, warships, and other vessels on the surface of the ocean. The E-2C can even stand in for civilian air traffic controllers in the event a natural disaster closes an airport control tower, managing the flow of planes full of relief supplies and rescue workers as they land and take off again.

    Getting out of a stricken Hawkeye is not easy. Unlike fighter jets, the propeller-driven E-2C lacks ejection seats for the air crew. Crew members must don parachutes before flight and, in the event of an emergency, unbuckle themselves from their seats, open the side door, and jump out of the aircraft. This CNN segment gives some idea of the cramped nature of the cabin:

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    According to U.S. Naval Institute News, the aircraft went down in a soybean field, and the site features a photo of plane wreckage covered with firefighting foam.

    The E-2C is an older version of the Hawkeye that’s currently being replaced by the newer E-2D Advanced Hawkeye. The aircraft involved in the crash was assigned to Airborne Command & Control Squadron (VAW) 120 Fleet Replacement Squadron.

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