US to deploy stealth-hunting aircraft to Japan in February

WASHINGTON - The US Navy will deploy aircraft equipped with advanced radar that can detect stealth fighters to Japan in February.

The E-2D Advance Hawkeye airborne early warning and control aircraft will be deployed to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in February, the navy said in a statement on Thursday (Jan 5).

The relocation of the squadron from Naval Station Norfolk to Iwakuni is part of the Pentagon's Asia-Pacific rebalance that puts the most modern equipment in the Western Pacific.

"These moves are in accordance with the Navy's strategic vision for the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific, a plan to put the most advanced and capable units forward in order to support the United States' commitment to the defence of Japan and the security and stability of the region," the statement said.

The E-2D is the latest variant of the long-running E-2 Hawkeye series of aircraft, which employs long-range radar and electronic communications capabilities to oversee the battlespace and detect threats beyond the sensor range of other friendly units.

The navy said the Advanced Hawkeye's suite of systems allow it to act as the "digital quarterback" of the fleet, collecting and distributing the tactical picture to command centres and other assets through onboard data processing subsystems.

New features of the E-2D include the A/N-APY9 radar which is capable of both mechanical and electronic sweeping, an "all glass" tactical cockpit, an upgraded mission computer, and upgraded data link capabilities.

CNN, citing defence journals, reported that the A/N-APY radar can detect stealth aircraft that might evade older radar systems.

A 2014 report in the US Naval Institute News said the A/N-APY-equipped Hawkeyes could be the US Navy's "secret weapon" against cruise missiles and fifth-generation stealth fighters, according to CNN. Those would include China's J-31 and J-20 fighters.