Weapon Systems

US Navy support aircraft track threats across the skies, land and sea


From hunting submarines deep below the ocean’s surface to 'blinding' an enemy's radar and communication capacity, the US Navy's support aircraft provide robust detection and reconnaissance capabilities.

Share this article

F/A-18E Super Hornets intercept and escort a P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft during a multinational exercise on August 9 in the central Mediterranean Sea. [US Navy]
F/A-18E Super Hornets intercept and escort a P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft during a multinational exercise on August 9 in the central Mediterranean Sea. [US Navy]

The US Navy utilizes a variety of fixed-wing aircraft for command-and-control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to find and destroy threats.

These aircraft -- the E-2D Hawkeye, the EA-18G Growler, the EP-3 Aries, the P-3 Orion and the P-8 Poseidon -- take advantage of advanced radar and communications systems to alert friendly forces to threats from the air, land, sea and deep below the ocean's surface.

The Hawkeye

The E-2 Hawkeye is the Navy's all-weather, carrier-based command-and-control aircraft.

The twin engine, five crewmember, high-wing turboprop aircraft uses computerized radar, Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) and electronic surveillance sensors to provide early warning and threat analysis of potentially hostile air and surface threats.

It functions as a command-and-control center in the sky, capable of dictating the battle space and directing friendly aircraft to their targets.

Used in most major conflicts since the Vietnam War, there are two active variants -- the E-2C and the more advanced E-2D, the latter of which reached initial operating capability in 2014.

E-2C Hawkeyes provided airborne command-and-control for land attack and combat air patrol missions during Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s.

Directing both land attack and combat air patrol missions over Iraq, the aircraft provided air control for the downing of two Iraqi MIG-21 aircraft by carrier-based F/A-18 Hornets in the early days of the war.

The aircraft has since also taken part in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Inherent Resolve.

Other than the US Navy, Egypt, France, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Singapore and Taiwan have all flown the E-2C.

The Growler

The EA-18G Growler is the Navy's carrier-based electronic warfare strike aircraft, capable of tactics including jamming and deception to reduce an enemy's radar and communications capacity.

In use since 2009, the Growler's mission is to "blind" the enemy during combat.

A modification of the F/A-18F Super Hornet, its similar flight performance allows it to act as a dedicated jamming aircraft in a strike formation to protect other aircraft.

The Growler is also capable of standoff jamming, or conducting electronic warfare at a safe distance from the enemy target.

It can also be armed with the AIM-120 AMRAAM medium-range air-to-air missiles and AGM-88 HARM high-speed anti-radiation missiles.

In addition to the US Navy, the Growler is in service with the Royal Australian Air Force.

The Aries

The EP-3 Airborne Reconnaissance Integrated Electronic System (Aries) is the Navy's only land-based signal intelligence warfare aircraft.

With a crew of up to 24 pilots, linguists, cryptographers and technicians, the EP-3 is designed for long-term, over-ocean missions to conduct reconnaissance, hunt down submarines and surface vessels and search-and-rescue operations.

The Aries provides commanders with near real-time tactical signal intelligence (SIGINT), or intelligence derived from enemy electronic signals and communication systems, along with full-motion video intelligence.

The aircraft has sensitive receivers and high-gain dish antennas to collect electronic emissions from deep within targeted territory.

The EP-3 crew fuse and disseminate the information for threat warning, information dominance, battlespace situational awareness, suppression of enemy defenses and destruction of enemy targets, according to the Navy.

The Aries is an adapted version of the P-3C Orion, a maritime patrol anti-submarine aircraft that has been described as the "workhorse" of the US Navy since 1962.

The P-3C Orion was first developed during the Cold War to track Soviet submarines.

The Poseidon

The P-8 Poseidon, a multi-mission maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft, has been called the "perfect submarine hunter."

Developed for the US Navy, the Poseidon is a militarized variant of Boeing's 737-800 passenger aircraft.

In service since 2013, the aircraft has two variants -- the P-8I, flown by the Indian Navy, and the P-8A, flown by the US Navy and navies of the United Kingdom, Australia, Norway and New Zealand. The German and South Korean navies have also selected the P-8.

The Poseidon is designed for anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare, as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. It is equipped with state-of-the-art radars, sensors and a new air-to-air refuel capability.

The Poseidon is capable not only of finding and tracking enemy submarines but of attacking and destroying them.

The aircraft can be equipped with torpedoes and Harpoon anti-ship missiles, along with 129 air-parachuted sonobuoys, devices used to detect objects moving in the water.

The Poseidon is also capable of carrying out surveillance missions in conjunction with the MQ-4C Triton, a new broad area maritime surveillance unmanned aircraft system (UAS).

The Triton will complement the Navy's patrol and reconnaissance missions by delivering signals intelligence, communications, intelligence, search and rescue and maritime strike capabilities.

Do you like this article?

Captcha *


The topic is very beautiful, and there are very useful and bright details. It teaches us a lot of useful things; I really liked it. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️


Those of the gap!