SPECIAL DELIVERY: C-2A Greyhound Celebrates 50 Years as Carrier Onboard Delivery Aircraft

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A C-2A Greyhound assigned to the “Providers” of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC 30) flies over the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68). (U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Jeremy M. Starr)

SEAL teams, a baby whale and love letters have one thing in common: the C-2A Greyhound has transported them all.

By Elizabeth Fahrner

Operating all over the world, the C-2A has supported the warfighter through its Carrier Onboard Delivery (COD) mission since the Vietnam War. It has carried key supplies and parts, distinguished visitors, fallen heroes, special operations forces, Sailors bound for deployment or returning home, and much-awaited mail between shore bases and aircraft carriers. From the mid-1960s to today, the C-2A has served as the linchpin of the Navy’s logistics operations.

“For half a century, the C-2A Greyhound has enabled carrier strike groups to operate forward by transporting cargo between shore and ship,” said Capt. John Lemmon, E-2/C-2 Airborne Tactical Data System Program Office (PMA-231) program manager. “With its demonstrated capability to reliably and effectively perform the Carrier Onboard Delivery mission, the C-2 keeps U.S. maritime forces around the globe ready to fight and win.”

Thirty-five C-2A aircraft are currently in service, divided between Fleet Logistics Support squadrons (VRC) 40 and 30, as well as a fleet training squadron and a test and evaluation squadron.

The C-2A’s legacy of logistics support began more than 50 years ago when the first of two prototypes took flight in November 1964. Production on the C-2A began in 1965, and the aircraft became part of the Navy’s logistics team in 1966. Nearly 20 years later in 1984, the Navy awarded a contract for 39 new C-2A aircraft to replace the earlier airframes. The older models were phased out in 1987, and the last of the 39 were delivered in 1990. The aircraft has undergone several modifications and a service life extension program extending the Greyhound’s service life through 2028.

As the Navy’s only aircraft performing the COD mission, it transports all types of cargo and participates in a full range of sea-based military operations. A derivative of the E-2 Hawkeye, the C-2A boasts a wider fuselage and a rear ramp for quick loading and unloading.

In 2004, Sailors aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) off load water from a C-2A Greyhound for transport to Banda Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia, by way of helicopters, supporting humanitarian airlifts to the tsunami-stricken coastal regions. (U.S. Navy photo)
In 2004, Sailors aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) off load water from a C-2A Greyhound for transport to Banda Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia, by way of helicopters, supporting humanitarian airlifts to the tsunami-stricken coastal regions. (U.S. Navy photo)

“I am always amazed at the ever-changing missions we are able to accomplish,” said Naval Aircrewman Mechanical 2nd Class Michael Cordoza. “One day we are flying out mail and passengers to a carrier at sea, and the next day we are launching a combat rubber raiding craft over the bay with five SEALS jumping out after it.”

“As a COD pilot for 25 years, I have seen this aircraft do amazing things around the globe—from standard missions supporting the fleet, landing on every carrier including seven now retired, to animal rescues, humanitarian assistance and development, supporting forward-deployed units in combat, and missions of diplomacy with ministers of defense and heads of state,” said Capt. Drew Basden, commodore of the Navy’s Airborne Command Control and Logistics Wing.

Basden’s most memorable and challenging mission flying the C-2 was transporting a baby pygmy sperm whale from Baltimore to St. Augustine, Florida. The whale was rescued after being washed ashore in New Jersey in 1993. The crew safely delivered the mammal, but not before the frightened whale sprayed a foul-smelling ink inside the cargo area. According to Basden, the stench lingered for six months.

One of the most routine items to transport sometimes holds the most value for the men and women on the ship, said Lt. Cmdr. Matt Blazel, PMA-213 class desk and previous C-2A pilot for VRC-40.

“The most satisfying mission we performed was delivering the mail to the carrier,” said Blazel. “For me, there are few better ways to break up a long deployment than to get a care package and a letter from home. We delivered those packages to the Sailors who worked so hard day after day, and it felt good to be the final link in the chain that brought them their little bit of home.”

While the C-2A transports mail year round, the quantity increases during the holidays.

“One Christmas, we flew 12 COD sorties in three days, taking over 40,000 pounds of mail to the ship,” said VRC-30 pilot Lt. Ben “Bean Bag” Ruth. “The mail filled up the entire elevator in front of the tower. A great memory, and a big reason I wear with pride the [U.S Postal Service ] patch on my flight suit.”

Whether mail or mammals, spare parts or SEAL teams, the C-2A has efficiently served as the Navy’s multi-mission workhorse for the last 50 years and remains the heart of the Navy’s logistics effort.

Elizabeth Fahrner is a communications specialist supporting the E-2/C-2 Airborne Tactical Data System Program Office.