A USAF Bombardier E-11A has crashed in Afghanistan. The aircraft, a converted Global Express business jet configured to carry the battlefield airborne communications node (BACN) payload crashed in a remote part of eastern Afghanistan controlled by the Taliban.
Amateur video and photographs show the aircraft’s fuselage largely burnt out, but the national markings and aircraft registration clearly visible. The USAF operates four E-11As which carry a crew of four and can fly at altitudes up to 51,000 feet, allowing them a vast line-of-sight communications horizon. The condition of the crashed aircraft’s crew – who are assigned to the 430th Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron – was not known at time of writing.
The Northrop Grumman-developed BACN payload is carried by the E-11A and unmanned Northrop Grumman EQ-4B Global Hawks, and is considered vital in remote Afghanistan where the rugged terrain makes line-of-sight communications between ground and airborne nodes difficult.
BACN can also provide a node to allow modern 5th generation systems such as the F-35 or F-22 to communicate directly and securely with older generation combat aircraft or forces on the ground.
The crash comes just days after the USAF awarded a US217m (A$321m) contract extension to Northrop Grumman to continue to operate the BACN system until January 2021.