The Air Force awarded $156 million in contracts to extend deployment of its Battlefield Airborne Communication Node fleet through next June, announced prime contractor Northrop Grumman. “BACN is making a tremendous difference for our warfighters,” said Claude Hashem, Northrop Grumman’s communication systems vice president, in the company’s July 23 release. He added, “These awards are evidence of that invaluable support and the exceptional performance of the BACN program office.” The first $106 million contract modification covers the costs of operating the BACN-equipped E-11A Global Express jets, and EQ-4B Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft through June 2013. A second $50 million contract modification provides contractor maintenance support for the E-11A jets through next February, states the release. A fleet of three BACN-equipped E-11As and equal number of EQ-4Bs currently provides beyond-line-of-site communication relay to ground forces in Afghanistan. The 451st Tactical Airborne Gateway’s E-11As surpassed 3,000 total combat sorties from Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, earlier this month.
The F-35 Joint Program Office has officially announced plans to issue multiple sole-source contracts to Pratt & Whitney to upgrade the fighter’s F135 engine—a widely expected move after Pentagon officials indicated they would do so earlier this year instead of developing an entirely new engine.