Northrop Grumman Corporation’s Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) gateway system, which is currently flown on four EQ-4B Block 20 Global Hawk unmanned aerial systems (UAS), has reached 200,000 combat operational flight hours. The system was first deployed with the U.S. Air Force in 2008.
The BACN system is a high-altitude, airborne communications gateway that translates and distributes imagery, voice and tactical data from a variety of sources, enhancing situational awareness communications and coordination for joint warfighters operating in all domains. The system has been deployed for a range of missions, including airdrop, convoy, humanitarian assistance, close air support, and theater air control systems operations.
Development of the system for both manned and unmanned platforms was accelerated in response to a joint urgent operational need, and Northrop Grumman has continually introduced incremental performance improvements that have been demonstrated and deployed over the 12 years of the BACN program. These improvements 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. It provides persistent connectivity and operational support 24 hours a day, seven days a week in multiple countries, and has delivered a mission availability rate above 98 percent over the last 12 years.
Roshan Roeder, vice president of Northrop Grumman’s communications, airborne sensors and networks division, commented: “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. 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.”