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The Future COD Aircraft Contenders: The Northrop Grumman C-2A Greyhound

“Carrier Onboard Delivery” aircraft permit strike groups to stay at sea, provide persistent presence

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In part two of our series about the two contenders for the U.S. Navy’s future Carrier Onboard Delivery (COB) aircraft, Edward Lundquist looks at the venerable C-2A Greyhound, which has served the Navy since 1966 and is being updated to compete for the job should the Navy fund a program in the 2015 time frame.

Although the C-2s entered the fleet in 1966, the 35 aircraft currently flying are “reprocured” C-2As acquired in the mid-1980s.

C-2A Greyhound

The Navy’s C-2A Greyhounds are assigned to Fleet Logistics Support Squadrons (VRCs). VRC-30 “Providers” are based at Naval Air Station (NAS) North Island, San Diego, Calif., with four detachments at NAS North Island and one permanently forward deployed to Atsugi, Japan. The Norfolk, Va.-based VRC-40 “Rawhides” deploy five separate two-aircraft detachments to support the Atlantic Fleet carrier strike groups.

C-2 Greyhound

The Grumman YC-2A Greyhound prototype (BuNo 148147), during its first flight on Nov. 18, 1964. This aircraft was also the E-2A Hawkeye prototype, which had been converted to the C-2A. The venerable C-2 Greyhound entered the fleet in 1966, but the current U.S. Navy fleet of C-2As were acquired in the mid-1980s. National Museum of Naval Aviation photo

 

Each detachment is usually manned with seven pilots, one maintenance officer, and 34 enlisted personnel, including six enlisted aircrew/crew chiefs

VAW-120 “Greyhawks,” also stationed at Norfolk, is the training squadron for all E-2C and C-2A aircrew.

Northrop Grumman is proposing a modernization approach that would give the C-2 the same wings, glass cockpit and engines as the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye.

Although the C-2s entered the fleet in 1966, the 35 aircraft currently flying are “reprocured” C-2As acquired in the mid-1980s. Those aircraft have just undergone a service life extension program upgrade (SLEP), which will keep them serviceable until the mid-2020s. “There’s a lot of life left in these airplanes,” says Steve Squires, director of product support and sustainment for Northrop Grumman’s E-2 and C-2 programs.

Rather than replace them at that time, Northrop Grumman is proposing a modernization approach that would give the C-2 the same wings, glass cockpit and engines as the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye.

C-2 Greyhound

Lt. Stephen Bauserman, assigned to the Providers of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 30 (VRC-30) out of San Diego Naval Air Station North Island, sits in the pilot seat of a C-2 Greyhound aircraft prior to takeoff, Jan. 22, 2013. VRC-30 was conducting naval air training operation and procedure standardization check flights, which evaluates airplane readiness and crew knowledge. A modernization program proposed by Northrop Grumman would give the C-2A the same cockpit as the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Mark El-Rayes

Squires says the improvements can be made in two phases, first replacing the engines and avionics, and then replacing the wing structures. By installing the Rolls Royce T56-427A engines, the C-2 will receive an immediate 13 to 15 percent fuel savings, he says. The upgraded aircraft will have the same 8-bladed prop as is currently on the aircraft.

According to Squires, having the same cockpit as the E-2D will deliver a 10 percent savings on integrated logistics support over the life of the airplane.

“Aluminum airplanes offer cost-affordable ways to extend service life,” Squires says. “Usually the problems in older aircraft are found in the areas you can’t see, like fuel tanks and inside the wings. Replacing the wing section and engine nacelles eliminates any and all potential for corrosion damage.”

There are aluminum aircraft that have been flying for a long time, Squires says, citing the B-52, KC-135 and C-130 as examples.

“Aluminum airplanes offer cost-affordable ways to extend service life,” Squires says. “Usually the problems in older aircraft are found in the areas you can’t see, like fuel tanks and inside the wings. Replacing the wing section and engine nacelles eliminates any and all potential for corrosion damage.”

C-2A VRC-40

A C-2A Greyhound, assigned to Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 40, approaches for landing on the flight deck aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). An upgraded Greyhound would receive new Rolls-Royce T56-427A engines, but retain the distinctive 8-bladed propellers. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman George M. Bell

According to Squires, the C-2A allows the Navy to use a “hub and spoke” approach as the most cost effective and efficient way of handling cargo delivery. “This approach is used by FedEx and UPS, companies in the business of making money, to transport their goods worldwide,” he says.

The C-2A has a crew of a pilot, copilot, and two enlisted aircrewmen, and can carry 26 people in the all-passenger configuration, or up to 860 cubic feet of space for cargo. Most of the time, the aircraft is configured for a mix of both.

With the new engines, the aircraft will be fully mission-capable throughout the entire operating regime, able to take off with a 10,000-pound payload in 125 degree heat and fly in excess of 1,400 nautical miles. “We can do that today with the current engines at 70 degrees F, or 15 degrees C. On hotter days, such as in the Arabian Gulf, you have to trade fuel for payload,” Squires says.

Squires says payload is an important consideration, but volume much more so. “Even if range isn’t a factor, volume is. You usually cube out before you weight out.”

C-2 Greyhound

Sailors move more than ten thousand pounds of mail delivered by two C-2A Greyhound aircraft assigned to Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 30 aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). Whatever airplane is chosen to continue the Navy’s COD mission, mail will be an important part of its cargo. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Juan Pinalez

While the H-60 Seahawk plays a vital role in vertical replenishment and other logistics missions, it is less than ideal for carrier resupply. The C-2A, Squires says, has three times the cargo volume.

The C-2 gets into the depot for regular maintenance, and is checked out frequently for any corrosion. “The Navy knows these airplanes very well,” Squires says.

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Capt. Edward H. Lundquist, U.S. Navy (Ret.) is a senior-level communications professional with more than...