Northrop Grumman successfully completed a series of ground and flight tests demonstrating its SmartNode Pod linked with the U.S. Army’s High Antenna for Radio Communications system can enhance information communication connectivity between ground, air and remote network nodes.
During the tests, Northrop Grumman’s aircraft-mounted SmartNode Pod enabled HARC to connect with other ground radio networks to form a unified network that operated across different radio systems, including currently deployed legacy systems and radios based on new waveforms.
The SmartNode Pod is based on Northrop Grumman’s highly successful Battlefield Airborne Communications Node technology that exchanges real-time information among disparate military and commercial radios and data link systems, a critical capability for deployed warfighters. It is designed for use on a variety of aircraft and provides critical range extension and gateway capability controlled by the lowest level commanders.
The HARC system – developed by the Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. – is an innovative approach with six antennas on an aerostat that connect to ground radios via fiber optical link. HARC floats above an area where line-of-sight communications are hindered by mountainous terrain or urban canyons.
“Commanders need a locally controlled airborne network that provides BACN-like information sharing to the tactical edge of the battlespace,” said Claude Hashem, vice president of network communications systems for Northrop Grumman Information Systems. “The SmartNode Pod provides a powerful ‘platform-agnostic’ capability without the significant cost of platform integration.”
Northrop Grumman’s Firebird aircraft flew the SmartNode Pod during the demonstration effort at Mojave, Calif., on July 27. The Firebird is an optionally piloted aircraft that operates multiple intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance payloads simultaneously.
Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for the development, fielding and maintenance of the BACN system. Since Northrop Grumman deployed the BACN system in 2008 to overcome communications limitations, it has delivered near 24/7 coverage in theater.