The Battlefield Airborne Communications, developed, operated and maintained by Northrop Grumman for the U.S. Air Force, has completed 10,000 combat missions connecting warfighters in the air and on the ground.
BACN is 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 command and control coordination between warfighters and commanders.
The BACN fleet comprises four E-11A manned systems and three Northrop Grumman EQ-4B Block 20 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft systems. BACN supports missions executed in Southwest Asia and reached the 10,000 combat mission milestone, March 6, 2017.
“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.
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.
Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for developing, deploying, operating and sustaining BACN in support of U.S. Central Command. Northrop Grumman maintains the BACN E-11A aircraft platforms; the U.S. Air Force maintains the EQ-4B Global Hawk platforms.
Northrop Grumman was awarded the first BACN contract in April 2005 by the U.S. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (previously the Air Force Electronics Systems Center), Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass. Since the system was deployed in 2008, it has delivered near 24/7 coverage in theater and maintained a payload availability rate of greater than 98 percent.