India’s navy is considering buying Northrop Grumman E-2D Hawkeyes to meet its requirement for four airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft.
One of the issues, however, is that the aircraft will have to be ground-based rather than carrier-based to begin with, as India’s aircraft carriers have no catapult. As a ground-based aircraft, it would have no need for folding wings, but may need additional fuel tanks for greater range. India has one of the world’s largest exclusive economic zones at sea.
Industry sources say Northrop Grumman has spoken to India about the possibility of having a fixed outer wing for the E-2D. The inside of the wing could then more easily feature fuel tanks. But for Northrop Grumman to invest in a fixed outer wing for the E-2D, it may want India to cover the development cost.
Meanwhile, India wants to be involved in the development of defense equipment. If India paid for the development of the new outer wing for the E-2D, then theoretically Northrop Grumman could transfer manufacturing of that part to India, which in turn could make outer wings for other E-2D export customers.
There may be a market for it. The E-2 is designed to take off from aircraft carriers, but the only customers that have carrier-borne E-2s are the U.S. and French navies. Other E-2 operators such as Japan, Taiwan and Egypt have land-based E-2s.
Northrop Grumman has already received U.S. government export approval to sell the E-2D to India.
The Indian government issued a request for information last year for the AEW aircraft. Another possible player in the competition is the Saab Erieye radar, which could be mounted either on a Saab turboprop or an Embraer regional jet.