Bombardier E-11A BACN
Bombardier E-11A is the military variant of the civil Bombardier BD-700 Global Express for use as overhead communications-relay platform in SW Asia. It carries Northrop Grumman Battlefield Airborne Communications Node, or BACN, allowing disparate battlefield communications systems to share data. BACN was deployed on a test Bombardier BD-700 & originally designated RC-700A under reconnaissance classification. Re-designated E-11A under special electronics installation category.
In June 2011 the Air Force announced the purchase of a Bombardier BD-700 Global Express aircraft for use as an overhead communications-relay platform in Southwest Asia. This aircraft carries Northrop Grumman's Battlefield Airborne Communications Node, or BACN, which allows disparate battlefield communications systems to share data. The Air Force had been leasing this aircraft, but then decided it would make more business sense to purchase it. "The prime contractor understands the military is looking to effectively use every dollar provided and worked hand-in-hand with the government team to facilitate the transition of this new platform into the [Air Force] inventory," a spokesman for the Electronics System Center at Hanscom AFB, Mass., told the Daily Report Thursday. The Air Force expected to take possession of the aircraft in July 2011, after which it assumed the designation E-11A.
Two different aircraft platforms that fly the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) system, developed by the Northrop Grumman Corporation, have been officially designated by the US Air Force as the E-11A and the EQ-4B. The Northrop Grumman Global Hawk RQ-4Bs modified to host the BACN system have been re-designated as EQ-4Bs. The Bombardier Global Express BD-700 received the new E-11A designation, reflecting BACN’s special electronic mission role.
“This new designation of the manned and unmanned BACN aircraft reflects a unique aircraft mix that provides theater commanders complimentary capabilities to support the BACN missions," said Claude Hashem, vice president and general manager of the company’s Network Communications Systems business at Northrop Grumman’s Information Systems sector. “The E-11A business jets provide rapid tactical deployment options, while the EQ-4B unmanned systems provide long endurance and unsurpassed persistence capabilities."
Since the system was first deployed to support Operation Enduring Freedom in October 2008, BACN had flown more than 25,000 operational hours in over 2,500 missions and delivered a mission availability rate of 98 percent. Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for the development, fielding and maintenance of the BACN system. The company was awarded the first BACN contract in April 2005 by the Air Force Electronic Systems Center, Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass.
In September 2011, the Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman a $43 million, five-month contract extension to operate, support and maintain two E-11A aircraft and to operate and maintain the BACN payload. BACN is a high-altitude, airborne communications gateway system that maintains operational communications support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The persistent connectivity BACN provides improves situational awareness and enables better coordination between forward-edge warfighters and commanders.
Five weeks ahead of the anticipated rollout date, the fourth Battlefield Airborne Communications Node-equipped E-11A joined the Air Force's arsenal in OCtober 2013. "Gaining another BACN-equipped aircraft will have a significant impact for service members," said Maj. William Holl, BACN program manager. "BACN is critical to battlefield operations because it allows constant communication to occur beyond line-of-sight in steep terrain."
Installed on both E-11A and EQ-4B aircraft, BACN hardware has the capability to relay voice, video, imagery and data between warfighters both in the air and on the ground connecting those who may be operating on different networks. Holl stated that with the addition of this latest system, the 430th Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron would be able to enhance their capability of providing 24/7 coverage to service members regardless if operating from an airborne platform or via ground means.
The Air Force BACN-equipped fleet consisted of four, manned E-11As and three EQ-4B remotely piloted aircraft. "The flexibility of operating both manned and unmanned platforms allows us far greater coverage," Holl said.
The BACN program began as an advanced concept technology demonstration in 2006 to meet the challenges associated with operating in mountainous regions with limited line-of-sight. However, it wasn't until 2008 when the first BACN-installed aircraft was fielded.
Holl quoted a recently deployed Solider from the field, "Soldiers were able to communicate over a broad range due to the BACN asset, which otherwise would have been unachievable. Without this asset the communication would have been far less reliable and very well may have changed the successful outcome of this mission." As the fourth BACN-equipped E-11A enters the Air Force's arsenal, there is no doubt that "countless warfighters will benefit from the system," Holl said.