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Communications relay testbed Gulfstream arrives in Australia

written by | March 1, 2016
Gulfstream II N510AG at Brisbane Airport. (Dave Parer)

A Gulfstream II business jet heavily modified as an airborne communications relay testbed has arrived in Australia.

The aircraft, registered N510AG to Lowcountry Trading, features Tempus Applied Solutions and Northrop Grumman logos on its tail and forward fuselage. It arrived in Brisbane on February 24 and is pictured here parked outside Northrop Grumman Australia’s Integrated Defence Services hangar at Brisbane Airport on the weekend.

The Gulfstream sports a large satcom antenna on its upper fuselage and was originally modified as a demonstrator for use by Northrop Grumman for the Multi-Role Tactical Common Data Link program, which, according to a Northrop Grumman January 2011 media statement, “provides real-time networking connectivity to warfighters and commanders by enabling extremely fast exchange of data via ground, airborne and satellite networks”.


The Multi-Role Tactical Common Data Link has since been integrated as an element of the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN). Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for the BACN program where four modified Bombardier Global Express business jet platforms (designated E-11A) and three unmanned EQ-4B Global Hawks are used as airborne relay nodes to translate and distribute “imagery, video, voice and data, often from disparate elements, improving situational awareness by allowing ground troops to reach back for needed support over mountainous terrain”, according a US Air Force press release.

BACN has been used operationally over Afghanistan, first with the E-11A and then with the EQ-4B, since 2008.

Flight tracking website shows the Gulfstream flew from Brisbane to RAAF Base Amberley early on Tuesday afternoon.

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  • Jason


    Interesting! I wonder why???

  • Tomcat Terry


    Great capability for the RAAF here

  • Daryl


    Looks like the jets the US Dept of Commerce use.I have seen em out of Hawaii on Flightradar 24 on many occasion.

  • Raymond


    Jason – testing the relay capability works here in Australia and / or related to the RAAF’s purchase of at least two, and up to five, Gulfstreams?

  • Jason


    It has a different mission to the G550 ELINT/SIGINT mission. It’s a comms relay test aircraft, allows 5th gen to talk to 4th gen, or non integrated comms networks to talk to each other.

    I wonder if there a Plan Jericho thing happening?

  • Adrian P


    If it is for comms relay.

    Surely something slower, with more endurance, with the ability to loiter over the battleground be better to provide a continuous relay service. Battles are not just 9 to 5.

  • mick181


    The RAAF won’t actually be admitting whats in the G-550s, so this is a possible capability. I would not trust any publicly released info about the G-550s. Just look at the way the project was made public and the fact that the EP-3s were up and running before the public knew anything. This is highly classified territory and rightly so, need to know and us enthusiasts don’t need to know.

  • Raymond


    Perhaps it’s for the ARH Tigers to enable them to share data effectively now that they will be in service for another decade? 😀

    The first two already ordered may be for the ELINT / SIGINT mission, however some of the remaining three could be for comms relay?

  • BJ


    The Tigers are finished. They have 5-10 years that’s it. AH-64E or AH-1Z will replace them in Darwin.

    Hopefully their replacement can be brought forward. The sooner the lemons are retired the better.

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