Northrop Grumman Corporation was awarded $47.2 million by the U.S. air Force for the acquisition of two additional Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) payloads to be integrated on existing Block 20 Global Hawk aircraft. The Air Force is currently operates the Bombardier Global Express E-11 platform fitted with BACN payloads, to provide an airborne communications and information gateway system in support of operations in Afghanistan.
Deployed on the high altitude Global Hawk unmanned platform, BCAN maintains continuous operational communications support. The persistent connectivity that BACN provides improves situational awareness and enables better coordination between forward-edge warfighters and commanders. BACN bridges and extends voice communications and battlespace awareness information from numerous sources using a suite of computers and radio systems.
The BCAN payload carried by the aircraft bridges between different radio frequencies and “translates” among incompatible communications systems to enable information sharing and enhanced situational awareness. 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. After the BACN payloads have been integrated on the Block 20 Global Hawks, the aircraft will be designated as USAF EQ-4B unmanned systems, providing long endurance and high persistence gateway capabilities.
Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for the development, fielding and maintenance of the BACN system and the RQ-4 Global Hawk aircraft. 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 company was awarded the first BACN contract in April 2005 by the Air Force Electronic Systems Center, Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass. The Global Hawk program is managed by the Air Force Aerospace Systems Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.