The Air Force on Tuesday awarded Northrop Grumman [NOC] a $149.6 million contract modification to exercise an option year for the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) payload operations and sustainment.

BACN is a high-altitude airborne gateway that distributes and translates voice communications and other information from various sources to provide improved situational awareness. The Air Force first awarded the $172.6 million contract to Northrop Grumman in January 2018, with a $13.2 million contract modification awarded in March 2018.

An E-11A modified Bombardier BD-700 Global aircraft with Northrop Grumman’s Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (Photo: Northrop Grumman)

The option year modification brings the full contract value up to over $336.8 million, according to the contract announcement. Work will be performed in San Diego as well as several international sites, and is expected to be completed in January 2020.

The funds for the contract modification are being obligated from fiscal year 2019 overseas contingency operations funds and operations and maintenance funds.

Northrop Grumman also received a $44.4 million service firm-fixed-price, cost-reimbursable contract on Tuesday to support the BACN Node E-11A platform maintenance requirement. It will provide for logistics product support for four E-11A modified Bombardier BD-700 Global aircraft, along with subsystems and support equipment. Those aircraft are part of the 430th Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron and operate out of Kandahar Airfield.

The BACN system was developed to address communication shortfalls during Operation Red Wings, a joint U.S. military mission in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, in 2005. “The BACN works to ensure a consistent and effective form of communication in nearly any location or environment, significantly reducing the possibility of communication failure and increasing the rate of mission success,” said a 2017 Air Force article. “The payload, or package of sensors carried on the E-11A, allows command and control to get in contact with the troops on the ground, and vice versa, to enable mission accomplishment.”

Work will be performed in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and in Maryland, and two offers were received according to the Air Force. FY ’19 O&M funds are being obligated at the time of award.

Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts, serves as contracting activity for both awards.