The first aircraft developed specifically for the purpose of Airborne Early Warning, the Hawkeye was first flown on October 21, 1961. The most common version is the E-2C, capable of tracking 250 aircraft at any given moment, over a range of 340 km while at the same time controlling more than 30 intercepts. It forms the backbone of the U.S. Navy's AEW array, serving off its aircraft carriers. The C variant is also the export version with eight sold to Japan, four to Singapore and five to Egypt.
Israel was the first export customer for the type, buying four Hawkeyes in the late 1970s that were delivered during 1981, complete with the folding wings characteristic of carrier borne aircraft. The four examples were soon put into active service before and during Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982 during which they won a resounding victory over Syrian air defenses and fighter control. They were central to the Israeli victory in the air battles over the Bekaa Valley during which more than 90 Syrian fighters were downed without the loss of any Israeli aircraft. The Hawkeyes were also the linchpins of the operation in which the IAF destroyed the SAM array in the Bekaa, coordinating the various stages of the operation, vectoring planes into bombing runs and directing intercepts. Under the constant defense of F-15 Eagles, there were always two Hawkeyes on station off the Lebanese coast, controlling the various assets in the air and detecting any Syrian aircraft upon their takeoff, eliminating any chance of surprise.
Israeli Hawkeyes have been configured for air-to-air refueling from KC-130s. The type is today being phased out of service.
Sources: IAF Inventory