Northrop Grumman Corp’s leading Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) gateway system, has reached 200,000 combat operational flight hours since its first deployment with the U.S. Air Force in 2008.
“This significant milestone further demonstrates the BACN system’s proven ability to enhance situational awareness, improve warfighter safety and deliver open communications capabilities for a wide range of missions,” said Roshan Roeder, vice president, Communications, Airborne sensors and Networks Division, Northrop Grumman. “BACN is one of the first battle-tested gateway systems to enable warfighters and platforms to effectively communicate and securely share data across all branches of the Department of Defense.”
Northrop Grumman’s BACN system is a high-altitude, airborne communications gateway that translates and distributes imagery, voice and tactical data from disparate elements—enhancing situational awareness communications and coordination for joint warfighters operating across space, air, land and sea. BACN has been used for missions such as airdrop, convoy, humanitarian assistance, close air support, and theater air control systems operations.
In response to a joint urgent operational need, Northrop Grumman accelerated development of the company’s BACN gateway system onto both manned and unmanned aircraft and delivered the first article of this critical capability to the U.S. Air Force in only nine months.
Northrop Grumman has demonstrated agility through the continuous introduction of incremental performance improvements that have been proven and deployed to the fleet over the 12 years of the BACN program. Improvements to the BACN system include enhancing data rates by 10 times, integrating new automation software to streamline communications and improve situational awareness, and implementing new military standard communications protocols.
The BACN system achieved its 200,000 combat flight hours milestone by flying more than 15,500 missions since the system was first deployed in October 2008. The BACN system currently flies on four EQ-4B Block 20 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft systems and three E-11A modified business jet aircraft to provide persistent connectivity and operational support 24 hours a day, seven days a week in multiple countries. The BACN system has delivered a mission availability rate above 98 percent over the last 12 years.
Northrop Grumman is investing in developing low size, weight and power gateway systems which are designed to enable communications and cross domain translations between multiple beyond line-of-sight and line-of-sight networks and datalinks—inclusive of 5th to 4th, generation capabilities. The development of these systems includes a focus on multi-level secure and integrated functions such as cloud computing, machine learning, artificial intelligence, next generation data links and the use of third-party software and sensor solutions.