Editor’s Note: The E-11A BACN, or Battlefield Airborne Communications Node, has proven itself to be an extremely effective asset downrange. BACN enables the passing of information in real time across the entire battlespace, whether it be similar or dissimilar data link, voice, or other methods of communication. By acting as translation tool between dissimilar communications systems, it allows interoperability without modification to the systems transmitting from the ground or others in the air.

In a press release on February 8, Northrop Grumman Corporation confirmed that the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) program — developed for the US Air Force — completed 100,000 combat flight hours, on January 30, 2016. Emerging triumphant, the company was able to gain the Air Force’s confidence.

Northrop Grumman received its first BACN contract in April 2005. BACN crossed a 100,000-mile landmark, after completing more than 8,300 missions since the system was deployed in October 2008.

The system is installed in seven different aircraft, along with two other aircraft platforms, through which it provides connectivity and operational support, continuously.

Specifically, it is installed in three EQ-4Bs, Global Hawk Comms Gateway unmanned aircraft systems, and four of Bombardier’s modified E-11As. The press release was quick to point out that the system is a communications gateway, installed to translate and distribute imagery and video, improving awareness for war fighters.

An E-11A touches down at Hanscome Air Force Base. (U.S. Air Force Photo)
An E-11A takes off in Wichita, Kansas. (U.S. Air Force Photo)

Following successful flight delivery, Northrop might receive further orders for the system from the Air Force. The Congress is said to have reduced military spending on the Department of Defense, limiting the budget to award further orders to the companies. However, after having achieved the recent milestone, Northrop might gain the government’s approval, resulting in new orders, even with reduced military spending.

Since the launch of the system, the Air Force awarded an $89.7 million contract option to Northrop Grumman to continue with its BACN operations and to provide support in 2014. On January 20, 2016, the company nabbed a $55.7 million add-on to a prior contract for the same, the Pentagon reported.

(Featured photo courtesy of DefenseIndustryDaily.com)

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