Northrop Grumman Snags a $782 Million Sole-Source Contract for Afghanistan Communications

June 29, 2012

The Air Force on Wednesday quietly disclosed it had awarded a $782 million sole source contract to Northrop Grumman Corp. to continue operating an airborne communications relay system in Afghanistan through September 2015, pushing the total value of the project to $1.7 billion.

Northrop Grumman began developing the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node in 2006 with two contracts valued at $50 million from the Advanced Technology Support Program managed by the Defense Microelectronics Activity. The Air Force deployed the first system, housed in a Bombardier BDS-700 business jet, in 2008.

Mountainous terrain in Afghanistan interferes with line-of-sight communications systems that ground troops use and BACN (pronounced "bacon") functions as a high-altitude antenna. It incorporates gateway hardware and software that Northrop Grumman says can bridge the gap between multiple communications systems operating on different frequencies and modulation.

Northrop Grumman said BACN automatically provides translation services between incompatible radios, allowing a troop commander on the ground to use a radio operating on one frequency to easily communicate with the pilot of an aircraft who is operating on another. 

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