NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The local Airborne Command and Control community is marking a milestone for its aircraft.
Sixty years ago on Oct. 21, the E-2 Hawkeye took its maiden flight in New York. Decades later, the aircraft is still flying the skies with carrier strike groups.
“The E-2 Hawkeye was orginally designed to notify airborne early warning. We basically act as the eyes in the sky for the carrier strike group,” said Lt. Jordan Olson, with the VAW-121 “Bluetails” Squadron.
The squadron now flys the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye.
Commanding Officer Neil Fletcher says things, including the version of the aircraft, has changed since 1960 but not their vitality.
“We were known as Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron but now we’re known as Command and Control Squadron. It shows our role is growing inside the strike group as our technology advances,” he said.
That includes having tactical capabilities.
“We are the longest-running production aircraft in carrier aviation. It speaks to the mission and the central importance we provide to the carrier strike group and the win. This aircraft is unique in what it does in its ability to launch on and off of the aircraft carrier,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher says the squadron deployed last year with the Abraham Lincoln Strike Group and returned in January after a 10-month deployment — the longest since the Cold War.
This weekend, they will start training for aerial refueling capability. Fletcher says it will give them better range.
But the capabilities isn’t the only thing Fletcher admires about those who work with the E-2s.
“I’ve been flying the aircraft now for more than a decade so it feels familiar,” he said. “As commanding officer, I’m honored and privileged to lead this squadron every day. I work with 180 of the finest officers and sailors in the U.S. Navy. Coming to work every day and thinking about that team aspect is what I enjoy the most. That’s something unique with the E-2. Unlike the F-18, where you have one other teammate, you have a crew of five.”
Olson agreed with the sentiment.
“When we take an aircraft up, it’s not just me and another crew member. It’s five air crew members working together to accomplish our commander’s objective,”
Olson, who’s been in the Navy for four years and serves as an aviation officer, says that it’s humbling to be a part of something with such longevity.
“It’s incredibly exciting to be a part of something that’s bigger than yourself,” he said.
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