Push to Outfit Global Hawks With Comms Relay

The Air Force has tasked Northrop Grumman to outfit two of the RQ-4 Global Hawk block 20 unmanned aerial vehicles that the company has built for the service with the communications-relay technology known as BACN to meet a joint urgent operational need in Southwest Asia for greater troop connectivity. “It’s the number one priority in the [Global Hawk] program now to convert those two airplanes,” Tom Twomey, business development director for Northrop’s high-altitude, long-endurance systems, told reporters during the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International conference in Washington D.C., Tuesday. BACN, which stands for battlefield airborne communications node, relays voice communication over long distances and bridges frequencies, thereby allowing ground forces on frequency-limited radios to talk with close air support aircraft. The Air Force has said it would like these Global Hawks ready to deploy in combat with BACN in Fiscal 2011.