The Air Force wants its Wi-Fi in the sky to keep flying, awarding Northrop Grumman a $217 million extension to its contract for the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node.
The contract extension covers one year, with work expected to be completed by Jan. 23, 2021. Work will be focused largely at “undisclosed overseas locations,” along with Northrop’s San Diego facility, according to a Defense Department contract announcement. The award brings the total value of the BACN contract to $570 million.
The BACN payload flies on the E-11A, a converted business jet, and the EQ-4 Global Hawk variant. It extends the range of radio signals, combines data links, and can convert the output of one communication device to another, such as linking a telephone to a radio.
The system flies extensively over Afghanistan, where it was first deployed as an urgent operational need in 2008 and early 2009. The need for the communications bridge stemmed from communications problems during Operation Red Wings in 2005, according to an Air Force release. The Global Hawk variant was first delivered in early 2018, according to Northrop.