Both of the Air Force’s Battlefield Airborne Communications Node-equipped aircraft have received new designations intended to reflect BACN’s “special electronic mission,” announced Northrop Grumman. The Bombardier Global Express BD-700, which is used as an overhead communication’s relay platform in Southwest Asia, has been designed the E-11A, while the BACN-modified Global Hawks will now be known as EQ-4Bs, according to a Northrop Grumman release. “This new designation of the manned and unmanned BACN aircraft reflects a unique aircraft mix that provides theater commanders complimentary capabilities to support the BACN missions,” said Claude Hashem, vice president and general manager of Northrop’s Network Communications Systems business. “The E-11A business jets provide rapid tactical deployment options, while the EQ-4B unmanned systems provide long endurance and unsurpassed persistence capabilities.” The Air Force awarded Northrop a $43 million, five-month contract extension in September to operate, support, and maintain the services two E-11As and to operate and maintain the BACN payload, according to the release.
NASA, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance are all preparing to launch their next-gen rockets from Florida’s Space Coast, two of them before the year is out. One is expected to liberate the U.S. launch enterprise from its reliance on Russian-made RD-180 engines, while all three rockets could eventually carry astronaut crews.