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​Airmen with the Hawk Aircraft Maintenance Unit walk in a Block 20 RQ-4 Global Hawk carrying a Battlefield Airborne Communications Node payload after it landed from a 30.5 hour flight at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia in March 2015. Air Force photo by TSgt. Marie Brown.

​The Battlefield Airborne Communications Node, known as BACN, reached 100,000 combat flight hours on Jan. 30, according to a release. The program, which was designed to improve interoperability among air, space, and surface systems, forwards and translates voice and data across disparate networks to keep warfighters connected. BACN began operating in theater in 2008. “This capability has revolutionized the way we think about communications, providing strategic agility to DOD and coalition partners through increased interoperability and range extension for ground, air, and space forces,” said Maj. Gen. Craig Olson, the command, control, communications, intelligence and networks program executive officer. “BACN has become a true force multiplier, and it is laying the foundation for the future of aerial layer networking,” Olson added. BACN operates on two airborne platforms: The E-11A and the Global Hawk Block 20. The Air Force in December awarded Northrop Grumman Corp. a $120 million contract extension to extend the EQ-4B and E-11A BACN platforms through June 2016.