US Air Force Orders Six More E-11A BACN Aircraft

The United States Department of Defense announced on 1 June that Learjet Inc, a subsidiary of Bombardier Aviation, had been awarded a $464 million indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract to deliver up to six E-11A aircraft to the United States Air Force (USAF). Work associated with the contract is expected to be completed by May 2026 and will be performed in Wichita Kansas where Learjet Inc is based. 

The E-11A is a variant of the civilian Bombardier Global 6000 Business Jet and is one of two USAF aircraft types fitted with the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) system, the other being the RQ-4 Global Hawk based EQ-4B unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Currently, the USAF operates three E-11A aircraft, as well as four EQ-4B UAVs. 

BACN allows different types of data and voice systems to communicate with each other in near-real-time and without modification, enhancing interoperability. It also helps alleviate communications difficulties that may be caused by obstacles such as mountains, distance or rough terrain. BACN aircraft typically operate at high altitudes over long periods of time. According to the USAF, BACN can also facilitate communications between 5th generation assets, such as the F-35 and F-22, and other command and control systems.  

BACN aircraft have been extensively deployed to the Central Command (CENTCOM) Area of Responsibility (AOR), where they have served over Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2020, a USAF E-11A crashed in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, killing both of its crew members and two locals on the ground as well as reducing the total fleet of E-11A aircraft to three. This contract provides for the fleet to grow to nine aircraft. All E-11A aircraft are currently operated by the 430th Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron, which is currently based at Al Dhafra Airbase in the United Arab Emirates.