EQ-4B UAS to bring networking, communications, and situational awareness to warfighters
HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Battlefield communications experts at Northrop Grumman Corp. are equipping long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAS) with military networking equipment to provide situational awareness to front-line warfighters.
Officials of the U.S. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., have announced a $39.9 million contract to the Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems segment in San Diego to equip the EQ-4B Global Hawk UAS with the Battle Field Airborne Communications Node (BACN).
The contract calls for Northrop Grumman to provide BACN payload modification, integration, and installation onto the EQ-4B -- the BACN-equipped version of the Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk long-range, long-endurance large UAS.
The BACN payload aboard the Global Hawk provides warfighters round-the-clock with essential information to pursue and defeat the enemy, Northrop Grumman officials say. The BACN airborne executive processor (AEP) enables a persistent gateway in the sky that receives, bridges, and distributes communications among participants in a battle.
BACN’s AEP provides translator and gateway interfaces among all supported communications systems, and forwards knowledge-based intelligence information to the Global Information Grid.
BACN can help ground troops overcome the limitations that mountainous terrain places on line-of-sight communications. It acts as an airborne communications node that mimics satellite communications in limited theaters of operations.
BACN bridges the gaps between those systems, enabling situational awareness from small ground units in contact up to the highest command levels, Northrop Grumman officials say. Global Hawk makes BACN available to support the warfighter 24/7.
The Global Hawk UAS can remain on station unrefueled for more than 34 hours. The large UAS also can be refueled in the air from manned refueling aircraft or from specially outfitted other Global Hawk UAS that act as aerial refueling aircraft.
BACN translates among tactical data link networks, enables joint range extension, beyond-line-of-sight connectivity for disadvantaged users, and IP-based data exchange among dissimilar users.
On this contract Northrop Grumman will do the work in San Diego and Palmdale, Calif., and should be finished by May 2018. For more information contact Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems online at www.northropgrumman.com, or the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at www.wpafb.af.mil/aflcmc.
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