The secretive role of USAF's E-11A

Lurking in the shadows of secrecy, the E-11A is perhaps the most vital relay and gateway platform in the USAF’s order of battle. Tom Kaminski examines the role of Bombardier’s Battlefield Airborne Communications Node

One of the least known yet most important platforms in the United States Air Force (USAF) inventory is assigned the designation E-11A. It is one of two airframes modified to serve as a Battlefield Airborne Communications Node – or BACN.

A 430th Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron E-11A Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (11-9355) reveals the type’s business jet lineage at Kandahar on March 31, 2017. The small but vital fleet of BACN-equipped E-11As supported almost 7,000 airstrikes that year alone
USAF-Capt Keenan Kunst

Utilising the airframe of a Bombardier BD-700 Global Express business jet, the E-11A is a manned aircraft that until recently shared the relay/gateway role with the EQ-4B variant of the Northrop Grumman Global Hawk unmanned air system (UAS). Described as 'Wi-Fi in the sky', the system proved an invaluable asset in the skies over Afghanistan, where it operated on a 24/7 basis.

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