An E-11A aircraft number 11-9358 that crashed in Ghazni province, western Afghanistan on January 27, 2020, killing two crew members
E-11A Battlefield Airborne Communications Node was developed by the US military from a long-range business aircraft, Bombardier Global 6000. Only 4 were produced, all of which were used for the 430th Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron, and are only operational at Kandahar air base in Afghanistan.
The number of E-11A aircraft in service is so small that the Pentagon has no aircraft to train on US territory, the first time the pilots were piloting the E-11A when they were deployed to combat in Kandahar.
BACN is considered to be an effective solution, helping various US weapons link together, and helping to connect ground troops with the Forward Air Controller (FAC) or Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC), especially in complex terrain, which affects communication. Soldiers can connect with allied aircraft via BACN without moving to an obvious position.
The US Army deployed multiple datalinks to share tactical information between weapons, but many of them were not compatible with each other. The Air Force F-15 can share target data with the naval F/A-18E/F fighter thanks to the Link-16 transmission, but the F/A-18 could not relay information to the Air Force B-52 or B-1B bombers.
Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN), helping various US weapons “merge” as one. BACN is made up of a combination of an unmanned EQ-4B and the manned Bombardier E-11A aircraft. BACN enables real-time information flow across the battlespace between similar and dissimilar tactical data link and voice systems through relay, bridging, and data translation in line-of-sight and beyond-line-of-sight situations. Its ability to translate between dissimilar communications systems allows them to interoperate without modification.
The E-11A BACN made its first maiden flight in November 2005 and entered service with the US Air Force since 2009. They are always deployed in Afghanistan for duty and only return to the US when maintenance is required.
In addition to the E-11As, the US Air Force is also adding the unmanned EQ-4Bs to serve as a Battlefield Airborne Communications Node. They will help reduce the workload of the 430th Squadron’s aircraft and crew during long missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.