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.

This Bombardier/Northrop Grumman E-11 carrying the BACN airborne communications relay bridge is operated from Kandahar airfield in Afghanistan by the U.S. Air Force 451st Air Expeditionary Wing. The current contract will also pay for the aircraft painting, as the leased executive jets are now formally owned by the Air Force. Photo: Senior Airman Corey Hook

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.

Carrie Premus (left), 451st Tactical Airborne Gateway hardware engineering contractor, and Reggie Green, 451st Tactical Airborne Gateway payload quality assurance contractor, operate communication equipment on a E-11 aircraft at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Aug. 22, 2011. The TAG Squadron conducts flying missions in support of 451st Air Expeditionary Wing operations. Photo: Senior Airman Corey Hook,
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