Northrop Grumman won a $3.6 billion deal
for Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) operations, sustainment and support. The contract provides for research, development, test, and evaluation, integration and operations and sustainment for existing and future payloads contained in or connected to the BACN system and associated ground stations or controls, ancillary equipment, support equipment and system integration laboratories. BACN is a US Air Force airborne communications relay and gateway system housed in the unmanned RQ-4 Global Hawk
, another Northrop Grumman product, to receive and distribute battlefield communications. It is designed to increase the range of voice communications in mountainous terrain by relaying the signal over an extended distance. It can also act as a bridge between frequencies, enabling a convoy commander on a frequency-limited radio to talk with a supporting close-air-support asset on a different frequency. Work will take place in San Diego, California. Expected completion date is January 24, 2026.
Northrop Grumman’s RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV has established a dominant position in the High Altitude/ Long Endurance UAV market. While they are not cheap, they are uniquely capable. During Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), the system flew only 5% of the US Air Force’s high altitude reconnaissance sorties, but accounted for more than 55% of the time-sensitive targeting imagery generated to support strike missions. The RQ-4 Global Hawk was also a leading contender in the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) UAV competition, and eventually won.
The Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration Program (GHM-D or BAMS-D) aims to use the proven RQ-4 Global Hawk airframe as a test bed for operational concepts and technologies that will eventually find their way into BAMS, and contribute valuable understanding to the new field of maritime surveillance with high-flying UAVs. It’s not just a test program, however, as its remaining drones also deploy to assist the fleet in active operations.