The U.S. Air Force has extended the deployment of two E11 Bombardier BD-700 Global Express executive jets operated by Northrop Grumman for operations in Afghanistan, serving as airborne communications nodes. The company was awarded an initial $18 million service contract in June, to deploy and operate the two aircraft to Kandahar, Afghanistan. This contract has now extended over five-month at an additional cost of $43 million. The Air Force plans to deploy three E-11 aircraft in Afghanistan, to be augmented by BACN installation on two Global hawk Block 20 unmanned aircraft deployed over the Afghan theater of operation. The company has deployed the prototype BACN in Afghanistan since 2008.
The payload carried by the aircraft is the BACN, or Battlefield Airborne Communications Node – a system that bridges between different radio frequencies and “translates” among incompatible communications systems to enable information sharing and enhanced situational awareness. Northrop Grumman developed BACN under a $276 million Defense Microelectronics Activity contract as part of the Interim Gateway program, meeting urgent requirements operational need.
The system employs gateway manager algorithms and Internet protocols to support ground elements a consistent and reliable communications in all types of terrain, using different radio waveforms.