Military Surveillance

E-2 Hawkeyes   E-3 Sentry (AWACS)   E-8C Joint Surveillance   EA-6 Prowlers   S-3 Viking

High Altitude: U-2   SR-71 Blackbird

Tribute to Spy Planes



If the U.S. Navy can see its enemies, it can kill them. The Hawkeye helps carriers do just that. It's an airborne surveillance craft with a powerful radar that detects ships and aircraft hundreds of miles away. The $51 million plane flies at 345 mph.

E-2 Hawkeye


Primary function: Airborne early warning, command and control
Speed: 345 mph
Armament: None
Crew: Five
Propulsion: Two Allison T-56-A427 turboprop engines; (5,000 shaft horsepower each)

Length: 57 feet 6 inches (17.5 meters)

Height: 18 feet 3 inches (5.6 meters)

Wingspan: 80 feet 7 inches (28 meters)

Weight: Max. gross, take-off: 53,000 lbs (23,850 kg) 40,200 lbs basic (18,090 kg)

Ceiling: 30,000 feet (9,100 meters) Crew: Five

Armament: None

Contractor: Grumann Aerospace Corp.

Unit Cost: $51 million

Operational: January 1964



The AWACS provides all-weather surveillance, command control and communications. For a price tag of $270 million, it has a radar dome that can detect small, low-flying targets for 200 miles, and larger, higher-flying targets even farther away.

E-3 Sentry (AWACS)

Primary function: Airborne surveillance, command, control and communications
Speed: Optimum cruise 360 mph
Patrol time: 8+ hours without fueling
Crew: Four flight crew, plus mission crew of 13-19 specialists (mission crew size varies according to mission)
Builder: Boeing Aerospace Co.

Power Plant: Four Pratt and Whitney TF33-PW-100A turbofan engines

Thrust: 21,000 pounds (9,450 kilograms) each engine

Length: 145 feet, 6 inches (44 meters)

Height: 41 feet, 4 inches (12.5 meters)

Wingspan: 130 feet, 10 inches (39.7 meters)

Rotodome: 30 feet in diameter (9.1 meters), 6 feet thick (1.8 meters), mounted 11 feet (3.33 meters) above fuselage

Ceiling: Above 29,000 feet (8,788 meters)

Maximum Takeoff Weight: 347,000 pounds (156,150 kilograms)

Range: More than 8 hours (unrefueled)

Unit Cost: Approximately $300 million

Date Deployed: March 1977

Inventory: Active force, 33; Reserve, 0; Guard, 0



E-8C Joint Surveillance

Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS)

Primary function: Airborne battle management; surveys enemy's ground positioning; relays information in real-time to ground stations
Speed: Optimum orbit speed 448 mph - 587 mph
Crew: Four flight crew, plus mission crew of 15 Air Force and three Army specialists (crew size varies according to mission)



This four-person aircraft jams and disrupts enemy radar and communications so U.S. aircraft can hit their targets without being detected and escape unpursued. The Prowler carries the AGM-88A HARM missile.

EA-6 Prowler

Primary function: Electronic countermeasures, Radar jamming
Speed: 575 mph
Armament: AGM-88A HARM missile
Crew: Pilot and three electronic countermeasures officers

Contractor: Northrop Grumman Aerospace Corp.

Propulsion: Two Pratt & Whitney J52-P408 engines (10,400 pounds thrust each)

Length: 59 feet 10 inches (17.7 meters)

Wingspan: 53 feet (15.9 meters)

Height: 16 feet 8 inches (4.9 meters)

Weight: Max gross take-off: 61,500 pounds 

Range: Over 1,000 nautical miles (1,150 miles

Ceiling: 37,600 feet

Date Deployed: First flight, May 25, 1968; Operational, July 1971



Mainly used to find and kill submarines, the useful Viking can also carry fuel for other planes, drop mines, and carry out reconnaissance missions. This $27 million aircraft can carry deadly Harpoon and Maverick missiles.

S-3 Viking

Primary Function: Day/night surveillance, anti-submarine and surface warfare, aerial tanker
Speed: 518 mph
Armament: Up to 3,958 pounds (1,781 kg) of AGM-84 Harpoon, AGM-65 Maverick and AGM-84 SLAM missiles, torpedoes, mines, rockets and bombs
Crew: Two to four
Propulsion: Two General Electric TF-34-GE-400B turbofan engines (9,275 pounds of thrust each)

Length: 53 feet 4 inches (16 meters)

Height: 22 feet 9 inches (6.9 meters)

Wingspan: 68 feet 8 inches (20.6 meters)

Weight: Max design gross take-off: 52,539 pounds

Ceiling: 40,000 feet

Range: 2,300+ nautical miles (2,645 statute miles)

Contractor: Lockheed-California Company

Unit Cost: $27 million

IOC:1975  (photos)




Its design inspired by gliders, the U-2 is a single-seat, single-engine, high-altitude spy plane, designed to provide all-weather, day or night surveillance. It flies above 70,000 feet and can reach speeds higher than 475 mph. Its cost is classified.



Primary function: High-altitude reconnaissance
Speed: 475+ mph
Armament: Not built for combat
Crew: One (two in trainer models)
Contractor: Lockheed Aircraft Corp.

Power Plant: One Pratt & Whitney J75-P-13B engine; one General Electric F-118-101 engine

Thrust: 17,000 pounds (7,650 kilograms)

Length: 63 feet (19.2 meters)

Height: 16 feet (4.8 meters)

Wingspan: 103 feet (30.9 meters)

Maximum Takeoff Weight: 40,000 pounds (18,000 kilograms)

Range: Beyond 6,000 miles

Ceiling: Above 70,000 feet (21,212 meters)

Date Deployed: U-2, August 1955; U-2R, 1967; U-2S, October 1994

Cost: Classified

Inventory: Active force, 35 (4 two-seat trainers); Reserve, 0; ANG, 0




SR-71  Blackbird


Primary function: High-altitude reconnaissance

Speed: 3.2 mach (2368 mph)

Armament: Not built for combat

Crew: Two





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