HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Military communications experts at Northrop Grumman Corp. are providing satellite navigation capabilities for a major airborne battlefield communications system to enhance the system's positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT).
Officials of the U.S. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., announced an $80.2 million order last week to the Northrop Grumman Corp. Mission Systems segment in Middle River, Md., to provide military Global Positioning System (GPS) and PNT for the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) aboard the Air Force Bombardier E-11A command-and-control aircraft.
The BACN is an electronic payload aboard the E-11A and Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk large unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The E-11A is based on the Bombardier Global Express business jet.
The BACN uses the Airborne Executive Processor (AEP) to enable a persistent voice and data gateway in the sky that receives, bridges, and distributes communication among all participants in a battle. Satellite navigation plays an essential role.
The BACN payload aboard the E-11A and Global Hawk helps enable diverse battlefield weapon systems to communicate with each other during in-theater operations where mountainous terrain, large buildings, or other obstructions inhibit line-of-sight communications.
Military leaders found that such obstructions could limit operating units to see only a limited set of the complete picture of the battlefield. The BACN is designed to provide situational awareness from small ground units in contact up to the highest command levels, Northrop Grumman officials say.
BACN’s AEP provides translator and gateway interfaces among all supported communications systems, and forwards intelligence information to the Global Information Grid. By controlling the AEP via a ground station, BACN is radio- and platform-agnostic, Northrop Grumman officials say.
On this order Northrop Grumman will do the work installation and testing at the Bombardier facility in Wichita, Kan., and military testing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The job should be finished by September 2020.
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