Global Hawk aircraft

Northrop Grumman has received a contract from the US Air Force (USAF) for the purchase and integration of two battlefield airborne communications node (BACN) payloads on two Block 20 Global Hawk aircraft to provide warfighters with essential information to defeat the enemy.

Northrop Grumman BACN programme director Steve Zell said: "This latest award continues the BACN program tradition of delivering new capability on compressed timelines that meets the operational needs."

The two BACN payload integrated Block 20 Global Hawks will be designated as USAF EQ-4B unmanned systems, providing long endurance and high persistence gateway capabilities.

The high-altitude BACN is a forward-deployed network-centric enterprise information server, which shares data between different battlefield communications systems using a suite of computers and radio systems.

The system provides an advanced airborne communications capability to commanders and war-fighters, as well as enhances situational awareness and extends voice communications.

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Northrop Grumman’s Information Systems sector network communications systems business vice president Claude Hashem said: "The addition of two more BACN systems on Global Hawks will decisively enhance the required 24/7 gateway capability."

"The EQ-4B unmanned systems will continue to provide long endurance and unsurpassed communications persistence to our warfighters," Hashem added.

The RQ-4 Block 20 Global Hawk unmanned aerial system (UAS) provides high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial reconnaissance capabilities to support military, humanitarian and environmental missions.

The US Air Force Electronic Systems Center awarded the first BACN contract to Northrop in April 2005. Northrop is the prime contractor for the RQ-4 Global Hawk aircraft as well as the development, fielding and maintenance of the BACN system.

Work on the $47.2m contract will be performed in San Diego, US, while the Global Hawk integration will be carried out in Palmdale, California, US.

Image: Northrop to integrate BACN payloads on two existing Block 20 Global Hawk aircraft. Photo: Northrop Grumman