VAW-116 Sun Kings E-2A Hawkeye


VAW-116Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 116 (VAW-116) is a US Navy Command and Control Squadron that was based at NAS North Island, San Diego, California circa 1967–1969. The squadron made three deployments with CVW-15 during the Vietnam War; the first two of the three while I was aboard CORAL SEA.

Late in 1948, at San Diego, California, Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 6 had its beginnings as Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 1. The squadron was commissioned with a new long-range radar system to detect hostile forces' surface fleet and approaching hostile aircraft while the fleet is hidden behind the radar horizon of the enemy's surface radars.

The first warning systems were utilized aboard the TB-M, AF, and AD-5A aircraft for anti-submarine warfare and early warning. In 1956 the squadron's name was changed to Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 11 and the squadron employed the E-IB "Tracer" aircraft. In August 1965, the E-2A "Hawkeye" aircraft was introduced to the fleet. Because of its unique radar, the aircraft was assigned the primary mission of longrange early warning. The employment of computers in the Airborne Tactical Data System opened the door to many secondary capabilities such as strike control, automatic fighter control. search and rescue, and air traffic control. The E-2A also had a communications system capable of radio relay and long-range automatic real time data transmission to ships equipped for reception.

On April 20, 1967, Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 116 was commissioned and reported aboard Coral Sea. After the first deployment in 1967-1968, the squadron again deployed for the 1968-1969 cruise. The squadron proved again the indispensable need for a carrier Airborne Early Warning System.

Armed Forces Expeditionary Ribbon Armed Forces Expeditionary Operations

During late February 1968 there was snow and ice on deck while conducting Operation Formation Star cold weather training in the Sea of Japan. This operation prepared men and machines for duty in March 1968 while USS Coral Sea (CVA-43), with VAW-116 Sun Kings embarked, operated on station off the coast of Korea following the capture of USS Pueblo (AGER-2) in January by North Korea.

Sun King E-2 "Hawkeye" Aircraft in the Fleet

The Northrop Grumman E-2 Hawkeye is an American all-weather, carrier-capable tactical airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft.

Since entering combat during the Vietnam War, the E-2 has served the US Navy around the world, acting as the electronic "eyes of the fleet".

The E-2A entered U.S. Navy service on January 1964, and in April 1964 with VAW-11 at NAS North Island. The first deployment was aboard USS Kitty Hawk (CVA-63) during 1965.

The first prototype, acting as an aerodynamic testbed only, flew on 21 October 1960. The first fully equipped aircraft followed it on 19 April 1961, and entered service with the US Navy as the E-2A in January 1964. By 1965 the major development problems delaying the E-2A Hawkeye got so bad that the aircraft was actually cancelled after 59 aircraft had already been built. Particular difficulties were being experienced due to inadequate cooling in the closely packed avionics compartment. Early computer and complex avionics systems generated considerable heat; without proper ventilation this would lead to system failures. These failures continued long after the aircraft entered service and at one-point reliability was so bad the entire fleet of aircraft was grounded. The airframe was also prone to corrosion, a serious problem in a carrier based aircraft.

After Navy officials had been forced to explain to Congress why four production contracts had been signed before avionics testing had been completed, action was taken; Grumman and the US Navy scrambled to improve the design. The unreliable rotary drum computer was replaced by a Litton L-304 digital computer and various avionics systems were replaced – the upgraded aircraft were designated E-2Bs. In total, 49 of the 59 E-2As were upgraded to E-2B standard. These aircraft replaced the E-1B Tracers in the various US Navy AEW squadrons and it was the E-2B that was to set a new standard for carrier based AEW aircraft.