A squadron of five E-2D Hawkeye Advanced surveillance aircraft has joined the Ronald Reagan Aircraft Carrier Strike Group in the Japanese city of Iwakuni Thursday in order to boost airborne radar and detection capabilities in the Asia-Pacific.
The forward deployment is seen as an effort to raise deterrence against the efforts by China to build up its naval capabilities. The early warning squadron, named VAW-125, is the Navy’s first to use the advanced E2-D aircraft.
Upgrades to the E-2D over earlier models include radar, computer systems and improved data links, The US Navy announced Thursday.
Apart from identifying enemy supersonic cruise missiles that fly at extremely low altitude, E-2D Advanced Hawkeye help guide interceptor missiles from US Aegis destroyers over the horizon to shoot them down.
The E-2D will be a vital component of the US military's Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) system, which is being developed as an air defense system.
Intelligence is shared by aircraft carriers and Aegis destroyers, and the NIFC-CA is designed to direct the closest vessel to attack the enemy.
"There will likely be a deterrent effect on the Chinese military, which is heightening its strike capabilities," said a high-ranking Self-Defense Force officer.
Under the NIFC-CA, the E-2D can detect anti-ship missiles that fly beyond the horizon and out of the range of Aegis destroyer radar. That intelligence would be shared by US Navy vessels.
Japan has also decided to ensure that two Aegis destroyers presently under construction can be integrated into the NIFC-CA. Consideration is also being given on acquiring the E-2D aircraft as well as Standard Missile 6 interceptor missiles.