Navy asks Northrop Grumman for E-2D avionics upgrades to enable the plane to team with unmanned aircraft

May 8, 2024
MUM-T describes synchronized use of human warfighters, manned and unmanned aircraft, robotics, and sensors to achieve enhanced situational awareness.

PATUXENT RIVER NAS, Md. – U.S. Navy aviation experts needed avionics computer and display upgrades to enable the E-2D surveillance aircraft to team with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) during aircraft carrier operations. They found their solution from Northrop Grumman Corp.

Officials of the Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md., announced plans Friday to contract with Northrop Grumman Corp. Aeronautics Systems segment in Melbourne, Fla., provide software and hardware upgrades to E-2D mission computers and displays to demonstrate manned and unmanned teaming (MUM-T) capability. The value of the contract has yet to be negotiated.

MUM-T describes synchronized use of human warfighters, manned and unmanned aircraft, robotics, and sensors to achieve enhanced situational awareness, lethality, and survivability.

The 18-month sole-source contract also will include technical support to update the E-2D mission computers and displays to process and display additional Joint Range Extension Applications Protocol (JREAP) messages.

Related: Boeing, General Atomics, and Kratos to develop unmanned aircraft to demonstrate teaming with piloted planes

MUM-T involves a standardized systems architecture and communications protocol that enables the sharing of live and still images gathered from UAV sensor payloads. MUM-T enables manned aircraft to connect with UAVs to enhance decision-making and mission effectiveness, and offer new levels of interoperability among ground forces, manned aircraft, and UAVs.

The Navy Northrop Grumman E-2D is a tactical airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft designed to operate from aircraft carriers. The twin-engine turboprop aircraft has a distinctive antenna, and provides the carrier battle group with wide-area radar surveillance for enemy monitoring and combat air traffic control.

Its large saucer-like radar antenna mounted to the top of the aircraft, as well as other advanced avionics, enables it to detect hostile aircraft and missiles at extremely long ranges and vector Navy aircraft to intercept.

Northrop Grumman officials call the E-2D reconnaissance aircraft a "digital quarterback" to sweep ahead of Navy aircraft carrier strike groups, manage missions, and keep U.S. network-centric carrier battle groups out of harm's way. The aircraft provides battle management, theater air and missile defense, and multi-sensor fusion capabilities.

Related: Army chooses L3Harris for avionics to enable the AH-64E Apache helicopter to control two kinds of UAVs

Compared with its E-2C predecessor, the E-2D has a new radar with mechanical and electronic scanning capabilities; glass cockpit; advanced identification friend or foe (IFF) system; new mission computer and tactical workstations; electronic support measures enhancements; an d modernized communications and data link suite, Northrop Grumman officials say.

The plane is nearly 58 feet long, has an 80-foot wingspan, can fly faster than 300 knots, and can fly to altitudes as high as 37.000 feet. It carriers a crew of five: two pilots and three mission systems operators. The co-pilot also can act as a fourth mission systems operator.

The E-2D first flew in 2007, and Navy officials say they hope to procure 73 of these aircraft by 2022. These plans started going to the fleet in 2015. Northrop Grumman is the sole designer of the E-2D, and is the only source with the knowledge, experience, and technical expertise to do this project, Navy officials say.

For more information contact Northrop Grumman Aeronautics Systems online at, or Naval Air Systems Command at

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Military Aerospace, create an account today!