The BACN Surge

The Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom AFB, Mass., has awarded a $276 million contract to Northrop Grumman to incorporate the battlefield airborne communications node (BACN) on two business jets and two Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles to fill a joint urgent operational need. The Air Force fielded BACN on a first BD-700 business jet in December 2008 to support US Central Command operations and part of this funding goes to its continued operation, although all three BD-700s are considered short-term solutions until USAF can field BACN on Global Hawk Block 20 UAVs, which it expects to do in time for deployment in Fiscal 2011. BACN provides real-time information to warfighters, relaying voice communication over long distances and bridging frequencies such that ground forces on a frequency-limited radio can talk with close air support aircraft. It also aids situation awareness of friend or foe. (USAF put BACN at the top of its unfunded priority list for 2010.) (ESC report by Chuck Paone)