USAF plans to buy six more E-11A aircraft to boost BACN capability

USAF buy six E11A BACN
Battlefield Airborne Communications Node-equipped E-11A aircraft.

On February 5, 2021, the USAF BACN Program Office, based at Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts, said it was working to purchase six E-11A aircraft over the next five years. The team has secured additional funding for the first aircraft and contractual negotiations on a purchase agreement are currently underway. It expects to award this contract by the end of March and delivery of the aircraft by the end of June.

The aim of the project is to expand the fleet of aircraft suitable for carrying BACN (Battlefield Airborne Communications Node) technology. Currently, it includes seven platforms: three manned Bombardier E-11As and four unmanned Global Hawk E-Q4Bs.

Since 2008, BACN has provided military commanders with a long-range, over-the-horizon secure communication capability that connects troops to combat pilots, despite adverse terrain or distance, often when terrestrial services are either restricted or unavailable.

“BACN is a critical tool that commanders know they can rely on,” said Manvell. “They know that they might not be able to establish communications without it. It is a very important tool and it has definitely helped save lives. Just imagine if you had someone shooting at you and there was no support. BACN helps to ensure that support arrives.”

The BACN system is a high-altitude aerial communications gateway developed by Northrop Grumman. It translates and distributes imagery, voice and tactical data from disparate elements—enhancing situational awareness communications and coordination for joint warfighters operating across space, air, land and sea.

The USAF fielded BACN technology in 2009 and the first combat mission was flown over Afghanistan in December 2010.

Written by Matteo Sanzani
Sources: 66th Air Base Group, Northrop Grumman
Photo Credit: USAF/Mark Herlihy

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