Northrop Grumman has been awarded a contract to continue the operation and support of the US Air Force's (USAF) battlefield airborne communications node (BACN) system.
Under the $89.7m contract's terms, the company will extend operational support of the BACN payloads in support of overseas contingency missions until June 2015.
Equipped with an airborne executive processor (AEP), BACN is a forward-deployed network-centric enterprise information server, developed to enable data sharing between different battlefield communications systems using a suite of computers and radio systems.
The high-altitude BACN payloads are integrated onto four E-11A Bombardier Global Express BD-700 aircraft and three EQ-4B Block 20 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
Northrop Grumman Information Systems communications division vice-president and general manager Jeannie Hilger said: "BACN is making such a tremendous difference for our warfighters that it is regarded as indispensable for mission success.
"The amount of positive feedback BACN receives from our warfighters is a testament to the critical support BACN currently provides and an inspiration to continuously enhance the system's capabilities."
The BACN also provides an advanced airborne communications capability to commanders and troops, as well as enhancing situational awareness and extending voice communications.
Northrop expects BACN to serves as a persistent high-altitude gateway in the joint aerial layer network (JALN) to offer secure communications to disadvantaged soldiers and network connectivity across the theatre.
The JALN would be designed to expand on existing communications networks and capabilities and links ground, space and airborne military assets.
Northrop serves as prime contractor for the EQ-4B Global Hawk UAV and the development, fielding and maintenance of the BACN system, and received the first BACN contract from the US Air Force Electronic Systems Center in April 2005.
Image: A Bombardier Global Express Aircraft configured as a BACN aircraft. Photo: courtesy of Skyking79d.