The first Bombardier E-11A Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) for the US Air Force’s (USAF’s) newly activated 18th Airborne Command and Control Squadron (ACCS) was delivered to Robins Air Force Base (AFB) in Georgia on April 24.
The aircraft (serial 22-9046) is the first of ten E-11A BACNs that will be assigned to the 18th ACCS, which was activated at Robins AFB on February 10 and serves as a geographically separated unit under the command of the 319th Reconnaissance Wing/Operations Group (RW/OG) at Grand Forks AFB in North Dakota. The arrival of this initial E-11A establishes one of the four new mission sets that will be carried out from the Georgia base as it is aligned to prepare for near-peer threats under the USAF’s future design structure.
Often pronounced ‘bacon’, the USAF’s E-11A BACN fleet serves as an airborne communications relay and gateway system that provides military commanders with a versatile means of exchanging real-time information sourced from multiple domains, such as air, land and maritime assets – including those from host nations and joint/coalition forces. BACN aircraft enable information to flow across the battlespace between similar and dissimilar tactical datalinks and voice systems through relay, bridging and data translation in both line-of-sight and beyond-line-of-sight situations.
With this latest delivery, the USAF’s E-11A BACN fleet now stands at six aircraft; the majority of which are operated in US Central Command’s (CENTCOM’s) area of responsibility by the 430th Expeditionary Electronic Communications Squadron (EECS) ‘Black Wolves’ at Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia. The 18th ACCS is expected to achieve Full Operational Capability (FOC) with its E-11A fleet at Robins by FY2027.
Since the inception of the BACN mission in 2008, the 430th EECS has consistently flown thousands of flight hours annually, boasting high mission success rates across the Middle East and proving to be an essential capability for modern warfighting. In light of this, the USAF ordered an additional six Bombardier Global 6000-based E-11A aircraft in a deal worth $464.85m on June 1, 2021, as the air arm looks to expand its BACN mission set. Work under this contract is being performed in Wichita, Kansas, and is expected to be completed by May 2026.