U.S. Air Force E-11A BACN Aircraft Crashes in Afghanistan

A Bombardier E-11A Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) aircraft, belonging to the U.S. Air Force (USAF), has crashed in the Taliban-controlled territory in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province, on Jan. 27.

All five people on board the aircraft were reportedly killed in the incident. The crash occurred at around 13:10 local time in the Dih Yak District in Ghazni Province. The crash site is near the village of Sado Khelo around 130 kilometers southwest of Afghan capital Kabul.

The aircraft, with serial/registration no. 11-9358, belonged to the U.S. Air Force’s 430th Expeditionary Electronic Squadron (430th EECS) operating out of Kandahar Air Base as it is the only USAF unit that operates the E-11A with the BACN payload.

The crash was confirmed by the U.S. Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A).

“A U.S. Bombardier E-11A crashed today in Ghazni province, Afghanistan. While the cause of crash is under investigation, there are no indications the crash was caused by enemy fire. We will provide additional information as it becomes available”, sai a statement from USFOR-A Spokesman Col Sonny Leggett.

The U.S. Air Force operates a fleet of four Bombardier Global Express series aircraft in special-mission configuration, designated E-11A. This includes the first Global Express aircraft received in 2007, and two Global Express XRS variants and one Global 6000 aircraft received later.

These aircraft are an integral part of the Air Force’s Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) program, an airborne communications relay that extends communication ranges, bridges between radio frequencies and “translates” among incompatible communications systems.

Last year, USAF’s E-11A fleet has collectively flown an impressive 100,000 hours since entering service.

Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN)

The Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) is a USAF airborne communications relay and gateway system carried by the unmanned EQ-4B Global Hawk (a variant of RQ-4 Global Hawk surveillance aircraft) and the manned E-11A (Bombardier Global 6000) aircraft.

The BACN was developed in direct response to communication shortfalls during Operation Red Wings, a joint U.S. military mission in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, in 2005. The operation became well known following the success of the book and subsequent movie “Lone Survivor” by Marcus Luttrell, a former Navy SEAL and the only surviving member of the mission. Due to Afghanistan’s mountainous terrain and lack of existing communication infrastructure, serious communication challenges prevented the four-man SEAL patrol from effectively establishing contact with their combat operations center, leaving them vulnerable to the attacks that claimed the lives of 19 special operations forces service members.

The BACN system consists of an airborne payload of equipment and processors that accomplishes three goals: it extends line-of-sight communications, it translates communications between equipment that speaks different “languages,” and it provides a common battle picture for commanders, ground forces, fighter jets, and other mission assets.

The system 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.

Because of its flexible deployment options and ability to operate at high altitudes, BACN can enable air and surface forces to overcome communications difficulties caused by mountains, other rough terrain, or distance. BACN provides critical information to all operational echelons and increases situational awareness by correlating tactical and operational air and ground pictures.

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