A Shinto ceremony was held at the Nippi Corp. on Thursday to launch a new E-2 repair facility at Naval Air Facility Atsugi.

A Shinto ceremony was held at the Nippi Corp. on Thursday to launch a new E-2 repair facility at Naval Air Facility Atsugi. (Jim Schulz / S&S)

NAVAL AIR FACILITY ATSUGI, Japan — A new repair facility created by Naval Air Pacific Repair Activity and the Japanese firm Nippi Corp. opened last week that allows the Navy to do regular maintenance on E-2C Hawkeye aircraft in Japan, saving valuable time and cost.

In the past, certain scheduled aircraft maintenance — similar to a tune-up — had to be done in the United States. The E-2s based at Atsugi were loaded on a ship and sent to Naval Air Depot North Island in San Diego for the maintenance, called Planned Maintenance Interval 2.

Losing the aircraft diminished the squadron’s ability.

“There’s a shortage of them in the Navy,” said Cmdr. Murph Borno, NAPRA commander. “It’s very hard to find replacement aircraft.”

The aircraft now can receive PMI-2 literally outside the gates at Atsugi, where Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 115, part of Carrier Air Wing 5, is based.

Nippi’s hangar abuts Atsugi’s fence, so aircraft can be towed right into the repair hangar.

“It’s [a] big time saver and a big cost saver,” said Tommy Rogers, NAPRA’s E-2C logistics management specialist.

Nippi Corp. already performs another major scheduled maintenance, called PMI-1, which checks the aircraft for corrosion and other physical damage.

PMI-2 tests the delicate electronics and other systems on the E-2C, an airborne early-warning aircraft with sophisticated detection and surveillance equipment.

The new facility means both types of maintenance can be performed in Japan, the only place outside the United States with that capability.

“It’s significant that it’s here because this is where the customer is,” Borno said. “This allows us to keep all the aircraft in the theater.”

Nippi is suited for the job, Borno said. Nippi’s parent company, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, performs the same type of maintenance on Japanese military E-2s.

It took more than a year to set up the new facility. The Navy had to purchase an electronics testing system for Nippi, and employees underwent training on the new processes, Borno said.

“There was a lot of logistics involved.”

The E-2 Hawkeye ...

¶ The Navy’s all-weather, carrier-based tactical battle management airborne early warning, command and control aircraft.

¶ The E-2 performs surface surveillance coordination, air interdiction, offensive and defensive counter air control, close air support coordination, time-critical strike coordination, search and rescue airborne coordination and communications relay.

¶ An integral component of the Carrier Strike Group air wing, the E-2C uses computerized radar, Identification Friend or Foe and electronic surveillance sensors to provide early warning, threat analysis against potentially hostile air and surface targets.

¶ Since its launch in 1964, the Hawkeye has been the “eyes of the fleet.” The latest version, the E-2C, became operational in 1973.

¶ The $80 million twin-engine aircraft is approximately 57 feet, 6 inches long with an 80-feet, 7-inch wingspan and weighs a minimum of 40,200 pounds.

¶ It is most notable for a 24-foot-diameter radar roto- dome attached to the upper fuselage.

¶ The E-2C squadron in the Western Pacific is Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 115, the Liberty Bells, part of Carrier Air Wing 5.

Source: Navy Fact File

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