Friday, January 15, 2010

Command, Control Above Afghanistan

An E-2C Hawkeye assigned to the Wallbangers of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 117 makes an arrested landing during flight operations aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz(CVN 68). Nimitz and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11 are conducting operations off the coast of Southern California in preparation for a scheduled deployment to the western Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Peter Merrill/Released)

USS NIMITZ, At sea (NNS) -- The E-2C Hawkeye aircraft assigned to Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 117 aboard USS Nimitz (CVN 68) has the mission to synchronize and direct air crews over Afghanistan.

E-2C Hawkeyes use sophisticated radar and communications to frame the operational picture for all levels of command supporting Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF).

"The E-2C is predominantly a command and control aircraft," said Lt. Cmdr David Dees, operations officer from VAW-117. "With the dynamic joint battle space we are able to link the operational level, or the higher level commanders, with the tactical units in the field."

The aircraft's powerful radar can simultaneously track more than 600 targets and control more than 40 airborne intercepts. It is able to detect targets within a three-million-cubic mile envelope, monitoring both air and maritime traffic.

"Everything the Hawkeye does in Afghanistan is to shorten the timeline from when the guy on the ground needs something to the time he gets it," said Lt. Cmdr. Matt Ventimiglia, an E-2C pilot. "That encompasses everything: tanking, air space management, communications and data linking."

The E-2C maintains the picture and serves as an information sharing hub for aviators and ground troops alike. Air space management and tanker coordination between Joint tactical air controllers on the ground and airborne assets is facilitated by the Hawkeye.

"We're [E-2Cs] helping the air wing meet its commitments because the guys on the ground don't care if that jet comes from VFA (strike fighter squadron) 97 or VFA-14, they just care it's where it's supposed to be, with what they need, when they need it," said Ventimiglia. "The Hawkeyes make sure that happens."

Since entering the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Operations Sept. 18, aircraft from Nimitz have conducted more than 2,220 sorties in support of OEF, providing 30 percent of the close air support to the coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Nimitz Carrier Strike Group (CSG), commanded by Rear Adm. John W. Miller, is comprised of USS Nimitz, embarked Carrier air Wing (CVW) 11, embarked Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 23, and USS Chosin (CG 65). Ships assigned to DESRON 23 include USS Pinckney (DDG 91), USS Sampson (DDG 102) and USS Rentz (FFG 46).

Squadrons from CVW 11 include Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 41, VFA 14, VFA 97, VFA 86, Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 6, Electronic Attack Squadron 135, Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 30 and Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 117.

Helicopter detachments include Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 37, HSL 43, HSL 45, HSL 49 and Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 23. Also accompanying the Nimitz CSG are Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11 and the USNS Bridge (T-AOE 10).