Like the advertisement that speaks to the value of a product, Northrop Grumman’s Beyond-Line-of-Sight (BLOS) communications capability is priceless for troops on the ground. That is the sentiment coming from the 116th Air Control Wing, which flies the US Air Force E-8C Joint STARS.

The company completed delivery of the new airborne broadband and Internet Protocol (IP) communications capability on the E-8C earlier this year. The ground stations, trainers and the full fleet of aircraft have been equipped with the IP-based BLOS communications system, which provides chat, e-mail and web-browsing capabilities across the US Department of Defense secure network.

The BLOS capability upgrade was developed in response to an Urgent Operational Need (UON) program request received in September 2007 to support the war-fighter’s requirement to communicate on a global scale using Internet-based technology. Included in the BLOS product are critical information assurance (IA) designs, which ensure the integrity, security and correct accessibility of classified communications.

“The BLOS capability allows Joint STARS operators to connect with personnel anywhere in the world using either data or voice communications via existing satellite and IP infrastructures,” said Stu Schreiber, Northrop Grumman’s BLOS Program Manager.

“Our development team pulled together a detailed design, developed software and customized networking protocols, and integrated the system within four months,” said Dale Burton, Vice President of Northrop Grumman’s Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance programs for the company’s Aerospace Systems sector. “This precedent-setting effort also included a parallel retrofit/fielding effort, resulting in a complete fleet-wide design to install upgrade within 14 months and within the constraints of aircraft availability, as Joint STARS continues to support key warfighting efforts overseas.

“This type of system design and development (SDD) program would normally take 20 to 22 months to complete, but the entire effort was condensed into a nine-month effort through an incredible level of contractor and government focus and dedication,” continued Burton. “Now we’re looking for ways we can improve the jet’s connectivity even more.”

“In a time when delivering programs on cost and on schedule can be challenging, BLOS is a success in both respects, coming in early and on cost while also meeting an urgent warfighter need,” said Capt. Kate Stowe, Air Force BLOS Program Manager.