NAVAL AIR WARFARE CENTER AIRCRAFT DIVISION, PATUXENT RIVER, Md.– Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 20 is proud to announce that two of its pilots received awards for their outstanding accomplishments in 2020. Cmdr. Jared Goul, VX-20 commanding officer, announced Lt. Priti Bhatnagar as the squadron’s 2020 Test Pilot of the Year and Capt. Michael France of the Airborne Command & Control and Logistics Wing (ACCLW) announced VX-20’s Lt. Mahmood Alaverdi as the wing’s 2020 Hawkeye Pilot of the Year (Ashore). Both pilots are 2018 graduates of the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, Bhatnagar with Class 153 and Alaverdi with Class 154.
Bhatnagar serves as VX-20’s E-6B Mercury department head and platform coordinator as well as the squadron’s lead Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization (NATOPS) pilot instructor. Her test team is small, consisting of around 35 civilian, contractor, and military personnel. “We’re a one-stop shop for everything E-6B related,” she explained.
The four-engined E-6B, based on the iconic Boeing 707 airliner, provides reliable and survivable communications between the National Command Authority and the nation’s strategic forces through exploitation of the radio frequency spectrum ranging from VLF (very low frequency) to EHF (extremely high frequency).
VX-20’s test efforts related to the E-6B include mission systems testing for the aircraft’s Block II modification and certification testing for reduced vertical separation minima. VX-20’s E-6B test team prepares programs in advance and is ready to go on short notice and is adept at developing test plans quickly for new projects as they are proposed. Bhatnagar said that this has helped the team bond into a cohesive unit in which everyone can depend on each other.
“It’s humbling to be singled out for recognition, but I work with a group of people who I feel are all deserving of it,” Bhatnagar said. “Sometimes, after a really tough day, all I have to do is look around at the other people at VX-20, the other project officers and testers, and I see everyone doing their best and working their hardest. I don’t think there’s one person at VX-20 who doesn’t deserve to be recognized.”
Even so, VX-20’s leadership saw Bhatnagar’s accomplishments worthy of special recognition. “The success of the E-6B Integrated Test Team is a direct reflection of your exceptional skills as a test pilot, your deep-seated drive toward excellence, and your complete focus on objectively evaluating the systems under test,” Goul wrote in Bhatnagar’s award citation.
Alaverdi is VX-20’s project officer for the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, overseeing test and evaluation programs as directed by the E-2D program office within Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, parent command to Naval Test Wing Atlantic. The E-2D Advanced Hawkeye provides aerial command and control, serving as the “eyes” of the Navy’s carrier strike groups. Its capabilities include early detection and warning of enemy air and sea forces and the ability to provide leadership and direction of all assets within a fleet’s area of responsibility.
VX-20 supports a wide range of E-2D test efforts including flight testing of the Naval Integrated Fire Control against threats from the sea and air; improvements to the radar, identification system, and mission systems; and the aircraft’s air-to-air refueling capability and carrier suitability. “We work really hard to test the products that are going out to the fleet,” Alaverdi said. “We work with the contractors and the program office to make sure that we can bring the best product to the operators so that they’re able to conduct their missions.”
As VX-20’s officer in charge for a two-week detachment aboard USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) to conduct aircraft compatibility testing, Lt. Alaverdi coordinated a complex evolution that consisted of two aircraft (an E-2D plus the squadron’s C-2A Greyhound utility aircraft) and 45 military, government, and contract personnel. The detachment conducted 105 approaches and 67 launches and recoveries with the two aircraft. Lt. Alaverdi also conducted several logistics runs that sustained the testing efforts, enabling the F/A-18s, EA-18Gs, and E-2D to continue their capability testing throughout the test period.
“We worked really hard and we accomplished a lot during the Ford detachment,” Alaverdi said. “It was a huge effort.”
Alaverdi said that one of the most interesting projects he’s working on now involves the reduction of high ambient noise in the E-2 through the use of helmet noise attenuators.
“The E-2 is notorious for being a loud airplane, and because aerial refueling will extend mission durations, crews will be in that environment for longer periods,” Alaverdi said. “Not all commercial hearing protection devices protect against the unique frequencies of the E-2’s engines. So we’re testing a range of other products. I like helping people in the fleet get what they need.”
Alaverdi said that he felt very honored to be nominated for the award. “I didn’t expect that at all,” he said. “It makes me feel good that they understand that it’s not just me, but that the whole E-2 integrated test team works together. My name may be on the award, but I got it by standing on the shoulders of people who are way smarter than I am.”
Citing Alaverdi’s accomplishments as the CVN 78 Advanced Arresting Gear project officer, ACCLW’s commanding officer Capt. France credited Alaverdi’s leadership for ensuring the safe accomplishment of 428 total E-2D and C-2A test points, which were “vital to achieving the Secretary of the Navy’s number-one priority to make CVN 78 a mission-capable warship as quickly as possible.”
VX-20 supports the fleet through the full spectrum test and evaluation of scouting (VS), patrol (VP), carrier airborne early warning (VAW), fleet logistics support (VRC), electronic countermeasures (VQ), fleet tactical support (VR), patrol special unit (VUP), Marine aerial refueler transport (VMGR) and training (VT) community aircraft. VX-20 also provides aerial refueling for the F-35 Lightning II, MV-22 Osprey and F/A-18E-F Super Hornet aircraft and safety/chase support aircraft for other platforms assigned to Naval Test Wing Atlantic. In any given year, VX-20’s pilots, aircrews, and engineers typically fly over 2,000 sorties totaling over 5,000 hours.
NAWCAD advances capability and operational readiness for naval aviation and warfighters. With sites in Patuxent River and St. Inigoes, Maryland, Lakehurst, New Jersey, and Orlando, Florida, the command is the Navy’s largest warfare center, conducting research, development, test, evaluation, and sustainment of naval platforms and technologies.