Northrop Selects AEI Manufacturing to Supply Contacts for Their BACN Program

In September 2020, Northrop Grumman selected AEI Manufacturing to supply the electrical connector contacts for their BACN (Battlefield Airborne Communications Node) for their Global Hawk.

PC tail contacts are an effective and streamlined way to marry connectors to PC boards, flex circuits, and other electrical equipment. However, due to the unique dimensional constraints of every system, no standard exists for PC tail contacts. For this reason, Air Electro designs and stocks an expansive selection of PC tail contact sizes, lengths, diameters, and configurations to support a wide breadth of applications.

All of our contacts meet or exceed the performance requirements outlined in AS39029, yet allow greater design flexibility than traditional “crimp and poke” mil spec contact termination. Custom designs are also available, with flexible minimum order quantity and first-run turnaround time can be as fast as 6 weeks.

We welcome challenging and unusual configurations, including specialty metals, thermocouple, selective or extended-durability plating, and 45° and 90° PC tails. For those seeking impedance matched terminations, Air Electro offers coaxial, twinax, triax, and quadrax contacts with PC tails in standard and custom configurations—designed to intermate with AS39029 and other industry standard items.

In addition to discrete PC tail contacts, we proudly offer turnkey pre-terminated PCB connectors ready to mount directly onto your board. Popular styles include connectors with integrated PC board standoffs and pre-installed solder-dipped PC tail contacts.

What is the BACN?


The Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) combined with Global Hawk, provides warfighters essential information to pursue and defeat the enemy.


The Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) combined with Global Hawk, provides warfighters essential information to pursue and defeat the enemy.

BACN’s Airborne Executive Processor (AEP) enables a persistent Gateway in the sky that receives, bridges, and distributes communication among all participants in a battle.


In theater operations, mountainous terrain inhibited line-of-sight communications; diverse weapon systems were unable to communicate with each other; each operating unit could see only a limited set of the complete picture. BACN bridges the gaps between those systems, enabling essential situational awareness from small ground units in contact up to the highest command levels.

In response to a Joint Urgent Operational Need (JUON), Northrop Grumman accelerated integration of BACN onto manned aircraft and provided this indispensable capability to the warfighter in 9 months. The BD700 aircraft integrated with BACN were delivered in theater ahead of already aggressive schedules.

Now, integrating BACN onto Global Hawk optimizes BACN’s powerful communications capabilities by exploiting the operational flexibility and economical endurance of that platform. Global Hawk makes BACN available to support the warfighter 24/7.

Originally conceived as a technology demonstration, BACN rapidly proved at JEFX and various exercises that its capabilities were already mature enough to field.

BACN’s AEP provides translator and gateway interfaces among all supported communications systems, and forwards knowledge-based intelligence information to the Global Information Grid. By controlling the AEP via a ground station, BACN becomes:

  • Radio Agnostic
  • Platform Agnostic
  • Un-tethered

Delivered 4 integrated systems, including payloads installed in aircraft and ground stations, in 16 months

  • Translates among tactical data link networks
  • Enables Joint range extension
  • Beyond-line-of-sight connectivity for disadvantaged users
  • IP-based data exchange among dissimilar users

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