The last US Navy-operated Northrop Grumman E-2C Hawkeye to complete the planned maintenance interval two (PMI-2) at the Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) departed Naval Air Station (NAS) North Island, California, on August 3.
The aircraft was inducted into the FRCSW on September 21, 2020, after it was delivered to NAS North Island by Airborne Command and Control Squadron 123 (VAW-123) ‘Screwtops’, which is based at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia. Following the completion of the PMI-2 process, the aircraft was flown to Naval Base Ventura County, California, where it will serve with VAW-116 ‘Sun Kings’ – a unit that regularly deploys aboard the USS Nimitz (CVN-68).
Developed by Grumman in the mid-1960s, the E-2 Hawkeye and its ability to detect, identify and warn naval strike groups remains as a vital asset for US Navy Carrier Air Wings (CVWs). The E-2C variant of the Hawkeye family entered production in 1973 and the type is now being phased out as its successor – the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye – enters service. Approximately 29 E-2Cs remain operational with the US Navy.
The FRCSW performs two levels of maintenance on the E-2. PMI-1 is the light maintenance interval process conducted at the centre’s site at NAS Point Mugu, California. During this procedure, the artisans assess the attachment points of the E-2’s flight control surfaces on the aircraft’s body. They also assess the platform’s two engines, along with other areas of interest in the maintenance specification. Sheet metal repairs are also completed and worn parts of the aircraft are replace during this process.
PMI-2 is the heavy maintenance interval procedure that takes place at North Island. It is conducted under the Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM) programme and involves the disassembly of the aircraft down to the fuselage. Artisans remove the E-2’s wings, engines, landing gear and tail during this process. The next step of this procedure involves the removal of the aircraft’s corrosion preventive paint.
Following this, an in-depth metal assessment is conducted to locate any surface anomalies, such as cracks, corrosion, exfoliation and missing fasteners. The CCPM programme provides resources for PMI-2, such as personnel and equipment. The E-2 CCPM is segmented into four procedures: induction; repair; assembly and test line. Each step of the process has a targeted completion time of 220 days.
While the E-2C is being gradually replaced by the more advanced E-2D, the FRCSW will continue to support the airframe maintenance requirements for the newest variant of the AEWS. During 2020, the centre inducted five E-2Cs for PMI-2 work and one for PMI-1 maintenance.