France Navy (Marine Nationale) is to order three Northrop Grumman E-2D Advanced Hawkeye airborne early-warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft in 2020. The E-2C has been in French Navy service for more than 20 years and the Marine Nationale is looking at the new E-2D as the obvious replacement. The French Navy had been closely following the introduction of the E-2D into US Navy service, with the type to be adopted to replace the three E-2C Hawkeyes serving with Flottille 4F at Lann-Bihoué, near Lorient, in Brittany.The newer variant is fitted with an entirely new AN/APY-9 radar with combined electronic/mechanical-scanning capabilities, more powerful processors, and an improved man-machine interface with larger screens. The airframe and engines remain the same, however, which will help accelerate and facilitate the transition from the E-2C to the E-2D.
The French Navy Naval Aviation (Force maritime de l’aéronautique navale) Flottille 4F currently operates three E-2C Hawkeyes acquired from the United States acquired in 1998, 1999 and 2004. It is the only Hawkeye operator with the United Sates to deploy the AEW aircraft from aircraft carriers. In the meantime, the three French E-2C will be mordernized and upgraded. Its scope is the modernization of weapons system, electronic warfare and IFF, as well as tactical consoles (2 sensors out of 3 are replaced), and obsolescence processing to meet the requirements of interoperability. Modernization work is carried out by the manufacturer Northrop Grumman, in France at AIA Cuers
France Navy operates a single aircraft carrier, the Charles De Gaulle, which relies on similar steam based launch systems to the U.S. Nimitz Class supercarriers. The similarities between the two platforms, despite the French carrier’s relative lack of sophistication and far smaller size, has meant that several carrier based aircraft used are interoperable. Indeed, the carrier Charles De Gaulle’s Dassault Rafale M is the only non U.S. carrier based fighter allowed to operate from U.S. supercarriers. The similarities between their systems also allow the French Navy to operate the E-2 Hawkeye from its own carrier, giving the Charles De Gaulle’s air wing a significant advantage over those of rival carrier platforms.