Grumman’s Long-Serving C-2A Greyhound Will Be Retired This Decade

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U.S. Navy C-2A Greyhound arrives aboard an aircraft carrier somewhere in the Pacific. Photo by Dion Makowski

The Grumman C-2A Greyhound was developed from the E-2 Hawkeye AWACS during the 1960s. More than five decades later, the final examples of this venerable aircraft carrier-borne transport are slated to be retired … around the type’s 60th birthday. Operating in rugged and challenging environments, the Greyhound will be replaced with the Boeing CMV-22B Osprey, a tiltrotor whose capabilities were barely on the horizon in the 1960s.

Navy COD in the foreground, at its home away from home. Photo by Dion Makowski

The C-2A won a competition to replace the remaining Grumman C-1A Carrier On-board Delivery (COD) aircraft in the U.S. Naval inventory, which were modified Grumman S-2 Tracker anti-submarine aircraft. The first two Grumman YC-2As were produced from modified E-2A Hawkeye radar aircraft. Gone went the radome, and a new, larger fuselage was added to the wing/engine structure of the Hawkeyes. The first flight of a prototype occurred on November 18, 1964. After flight testing was accomplished, 17 production aircraft were ordered; the type was introduced into service in 1966.

The 19 initial C-2As flew to and from aircraft carriers around the world for two decades. The fuselage of the new COD was designed to be able to transport individual jet engines from shore to the carrier, as well as high priority cargo, passengers, and another important item – mail for a carrier’s crew.

Other missions for the Greyhound included parachute operations for cargo and special forces paratroopers (Navy SEALS included). Inclusion of an in-flight operating cargo door and an on-board winch helps handle cargo loading and offloading chores easily. The aircraft has folding wings, which helps with shipboard handling and storage. An Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) is fitted for remote operations too.

Pre-SLEP C-2A at NAS North Island

The first production batch aircraft were all overhauled in a 1973 Service Life Extension Program (SLEP). These older airframes were all later retired by 1987. A batch of 39 new production C-2As was ordered in 1984; the new airframes were all in use by 1990. Of the newer batch, some 36 airframes were upgraded during a SLEP, with a service life stretching to the year 2027. One item which is readily apparent of the latest SLEP is the inclusion of a new 8-bladed NP2000 propeller, which is also fitted to current E-2D Hawkeye aircraft.

CMV-22B is in early testing, photo via NAVAIR - U.S. Navy

A program to replace the C-2 Greyhound saw three airframes vying for the job. An improved C-2A with refinements from the newest E-2D Hawkeye was fielded by Northrop Grumman. A derivative of the Lockheed S-3 Viking was also fielded. Ultimately, a specialized variant of the Bell Boeing MV-22 Osprey was chosen though, and the first prototype of this series (called the CMV-22B) flew on January 21st, 2020 at Amarillo, Texas.

Overall dimensions and performance of the Greyhound includes:

Crew: 2 pilots and 2 loadmasters.

Can carry 26 passengers or 12 litter parients, and a total payload of 10,000 pounds.

Wingspan is 80 feet 7 inches, length is 56 feet 10 inches.

Empty weight is 36,749 pounds, maximum takeoff weight is 57,500 pounds.

Powered by two Allison T56-A-425 turboprops.

Maximum speed is 343 knots, cruise speed is around 260 knots, stall speed is 82 knots.

Range is up to 1,300 nautical miles normally 1,000 miles, service ceiling is around 30,000 feet.

VRC-40 Greyhound in commemorative colors.

The C-2A Greyhound has supported U.S. military forces throughout numerous conflicts, including the Viet Nam War, the Gulf War and Operation Enduring freedom to name just a few. Although shipborne operations are carried out via “Detachments” from a main operating unit (Fleet Logistics Support Squadrons VRC-30 in the Pacific and VRC-40 in the Atlantic), there have been other Squadrons during the type’s history too. Training Squadrons for E-2C Hawkeyes acquired examples for a short period of time, VX-20 operated an example for Test and Development, and for a single Navy Transport Squadron (VR-24) in the European and Mediterranean areas.

A pair of VRC-30 C-2As taking part in the 2012 CONA flypast at NAS North Island.

Fifty-five years after the first prototype flew, the days of the C-2A Greyhound in Fleet service are numbered. The rugged design served around the world on some of America's largest and most lethal weapons - aircraft carriers. It's crews performed important duties during war and peace, and the design withstood the test of time, with the help of a pair of major Service Life Extension Programs. Interestingly enough, the two main operators of the C-2A today incorporate a sunset in the background of their unit insignia. Although the new tiltrotor technology will add some capabilities to the new COD mission that the Greyhound didn't have, a fifty-year service life means that the aircraft's design certainly wasn't lacking in ability nor longevity.

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