The US Air Force’s Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN), developed, operated and maintained by Northrop Grumman, completed its 10,000th combat mission on 6 March.

A high-altitude, airborne gateway that translates and distributes voice communications, video, imagery and other battlespace information from numerous sources using a suite of computers and radio systems, BACN bridges and extends communications among disparate users and different datalink networks to provide situational awareness and enable better C2 coordination between combat troops and commanders. Since the system was deployed in 2008, it has delivered near 24/7 coverage in theatre and maintained a payload availability rate of greater than 98 percent.

The BACN fleet comprises four E-11A manned systems and three Northrop Grumman EQ-4B Block 20 GLOBAL HAWK unmanned aircraft systems and supports missions executed in Southwest Asia. The persistent connectivity BACN provides is used to successfully execute a number of missions, including airdrops and overall air operations. The system's beyond-line-of-sight capability has been particularly useful overcoming the communications limitations posed by Afghanistan's rugged terrain.

This is a significant milestone as the BACN system continues to demonstrate it is absolutely indispensable to our warfighters in the execution of their missions. Airborne Gateways greatly increase situational awareness and command and control, capabilities that are equally critical for joint and coalition operations,” said Jeannie Hilger, vice president, communications business, Northrop Grumman Mission Systems.



Northrop Grumman operates and maintains the BACN E-11A aircraft, the USAF maintains the GLOBAL HAWK platforms. (Photo: Northrop Grumman)

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