The Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman [NOC] a $48.2 million contract recently as part of the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) program, according to a Defense Department statement.

The contract is for E-11A platform maintenance. Northrop Grumman spokeswoman Janis Lamar said recently platform maintenance includes daily maintenance, launch, recovery, servicing, and configuring and scheduling for the special BACN payload.

Lamar said there are three operational E-11As and a fourth Bombardier Global 6000 has been delivered to the Air Force to be equipped with BACN. Bombardier Aerospace delivered the Global 6000 to the Air Force Aug. 30 with the intention of having it BACN-equipped in time for deployment in the summer of 2013, according to a company statement. The E-11A is the Air Force’s operational designation for aircraft equipped with BACN. The Global 6000 is an “ultra long-range” business aircraft.

Northrop Grumman also has three of its EQ-4B Global Hawk Block 20 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) equipped with BACN. The company in early September delivered a third BACN-equipped Block 20 to the Air Force. EQ-4B is the operational designation for BACN-equipped Block 20s.

BACN is a high-altitude, airborne communications and information gateway system that provides situational awareness and command and control (C2) coordination between warfighters and commanders. BACN bridges and extends voice communications and battlespace information from numerous sources, including nearly every tactical and civil radio system, via a suite of computers and radio systems. Some examples include Link 16, Common Link Integration Processing (CLIP), Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW), Highband Networking Waveform (HNW) and Enhanced Position Location Reporting System (EPLRS).

Northrop Grumman developed BACN for the Air Force to overcome communications limitations posed by rugged, mountainous terrain in Afghanistan. Northrop Grumman was awarded a $106 million contract modification June 21 to extend the deployment and operation of BACN payloads installed in three E-11A aircraft and three EQ-4B Block 20 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles.

Bombardier Aerospace is a division of Bombardier.