Photos of the Week: Eyes from Above

The Navy has its own version of a ‘flying control tower’

By BlueSkyStaff

Published March 13, 2023

Read Time: 2 mins


You wouldn’t know it from Hollywood blockbusters, but the U.S. Navy doesn’t just fly supersonic, highly maneuverable fighters.

The E-2 Hawkeye, built by Northrop Grumman, may not be the sleekest Navy aircraft, nor does it have the most glamorous mission. However, it plays one of the Navy’s most critical (and underappreciated) roles.

The Hawkeye is the Navy’s tactical airborne early warning platform (AEW)—a multi-mission plane featuring some of the most advanced equipment of any military aircraft. Like the Sentry, the Navy’s E-2 acts as a flying control tower. Its 24-foot diameter dish atop its fuselage provides a 360-degree view and can track targets up to hundreds of miles away, sending back vital information to Naval commanders and aircraft carrier battle groups.

While often compared to the Air Force’s Boeing E-3 Sentry (which operates out of land bases with long runways), the Navy E-2 is much smaller, allowing it to take off and land from aircraft carriers. It can also fold its wings while stowed on the carrier deck, saving precious space for other planes.

The Hawkeye carries a crew of five. Two pilots fly the aircraft while three personnel—a combat information center officer, air control officer and radar operator—sit in the back working the aircraft’s systems.

First entering production in 1964, the Hawkeye has become widespread throughout the Navy and has evolved through numerous upgrades. The E-2D Advanced Hawkeye is the latest production version built by Northrop Grumman and first became operational in 2014.

Connor Ochs snapped a photo of this E-2D belonging to VAW-120 arriving at Harrisburg International Airport near Middletown, Pa. We sure love this shot of a beautiful blue sky and this unique aircraft.

While our human eyes may not be able to see as far as the E-2’s radar, at least we can appreciate the amazing views, such as this one provided by Lindsey Hoover from the window of a United Airlines flight passing over downtown Pittsburgh while on approach for landing at PIT.

Thanks, Connor and Lindsey!

Our readers continue to pass along shots of unique aircraft, international airports, historical events, gorgeous views and even family vacation photos for this feature. We love them! Keep them coming—you can click here for submission guidelines.

A United Airlines flight passes over downtown Pittsburgh while on final approach to PIT. (Photo submitted by Lindsey Hoover)

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