Flying WiFi Hotspot

The Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman a $20 million contract to add beyond-line-of-sight command and control functions on one of its E-11A communications-relay aircraft, announced the company. BLOS C2 allows the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node-equipped jet to spread “wireless Internet over the battlefield,” giving ground forces access to video, imagery, and Internet chat, according to the company’s Sept. 24 release. The Air Force’s small, combined fleet of BACN-equipped E-11As and RQ-4B Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft currently provide near-constant communications relay over Afghanistan, said Northrop Grumman. The E-11A slated for the upgrade is one of three Bombardier BD-700 Global Express airplanes already modified with BACN payloads. Technicians at Hanscom AFB, Mass., are scheduled to complete BLOS C2 installation and integration work on this aircraft by next June. The Air Force has a fourth Bombardier aircraft undergoing conversion to the E-11A BACN role.