Northrop Grumman [NOC] delivered one of the company’s Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) equipped with the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) to the Air Force, according to a statement.

Northrop Grumman spokesman Warren Comer yesterday identified the BACN-carrying Global Hawk as an EQ-4B Block 20.

BACN is a high-altitude, airborne communications and information gateway system that provides situational awareness and command and control 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.

BACN is also installed on two other EQ-4B Global Hawk Block 20s and three E-11A Bombardier Global Express BD-700 military modified corporate aircraft. Bombardier Aerospace, which develops the Global Express, is a division of Bombardier, Inc.

The BACN-equipped Block 20 was delivered Sept. 7, four months ahead of schedule, according to Northrop Grumman. The Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman a $47 million contract in December for the purchase and integration of two BACN payloads on two existing Global Hawk Block 20s. The company said it also delivered ahead of schedule a BACN-equipped Global Hawk Block 20 in June.

BACN completed its 3,000th mission July 14 aboard an E-11A Bombardier Global Express BD-700.

Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for BACN. Northrop Grumman manages both the payload and platform maintenance on the Bombardier E-11As. On the EQ-4B Block 20s, the company manages the payload and the Air Force oversees the platform (Defense Daily, Aug. 31).