Northrop Grumman has announced that they have been awarded a contract by the US Air Force worth north of $60 million dollars. The contract is for the US Air Force’s Battlefield Airborne Communication Node (BACN) payload operations and support. The BACN is an airborne communications relay and gateway system hosted by the United States Air Force (USAF) on a variety of US Army aircraft designated as the EQ-4B which is the Global Hawk variant and the E-11A which is the Global Express modification.
BACN provides war-fighters essential information that allows it to pursue and defeat the enemy. By enabling a persistent Gateway in the sky, BACN can receive, bridge and distribute communication among all participants in a battle. In real life operations, there are obstacles such as mountainous terrain which inhibit line-of-sight communication. Operating units can only see a limited and often time incomplete picture of the entire war field.
The diverse weapon systems employed in combat are unable to communicate with each other hindering effectiveness and hampering cohesion in their attacks and defenses. BACN is responsible for bridging the gap between those systems enabling situational awareness from the smallest ground units to the highest levels of command. Northrop Grumman has been contracted to compete work on the BACN by Jan. 23rd of 2017 according to a statement released by the US Department of Defense.
BACN was originally conceived as a demonstration of the utility it could provide and quickly proved at JEFX and in other exercises that it was ready to be tested out in the field. Delivering 4 integrated systems which include payloads installed in aircraft and ground stations, in 16 months BACN would be able to translate tactical data link networks, enable joint range extension, provide beyond-line-of-sight connectivity for disadvantaged users and an IP-based data exchange among dissimilar users.
BACN has been integrated into Global Hawk which optimizes BACN’s already powerful communication capabilities by exploiting the platform’s operational flexibility and economical endurance. Global Hawk allows BACN to be available for support of a war-fighter 24/7. The schedule for BACN’s integration has already been aggressively accelerated in part due to a response to a Joint Urgent Operation Need (JUON).