LONDON – A new US Air Force E-11A BACN aircraft has arrived at Prince Sultan Air Base, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This E-11A is the newest addition to the USAF 430th Expeditionary Electronic Communications Squadron’s fleet.
Commonly known as “Battlefield Airborne Communications Node”, or BACN, this unique aircraft extends the range of communications channels and enables better communication amongst units.
Air to ground communications
For the 430th Expeditionary Electronic Communications Squadron, delivering communication coverage to the American warfighter, the nation’s allies and coalition partners is a primary objective.
The 430th EECS is the only unit in the U.S. Air Force that operates the E-11A aircraft with the Battlefield Airborne Communication Node payload.
As such, the 430th EECS strives to provide consistent and effective communication channels for air, ground and maritime forces in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.
“The 430th supports warfighters who conduct around the clock operations in the CENTCOM AOR,” said Lt. Col. Todd Arthur, the 430th EECS commander.
“We supply communication coverage to ground and air forces in active combat zones, who require consistent, clear communications to higher levels of leadership and other command and control assets.”
To help keep the 430th’s fleet airborne projecting constant combat communications support, the US Air Force and Air Combat Command procured a brand-new E-11A, which arrived at Prince Sultan Air Base on December 16, 2022.
“This new E-11A will relieve the pressure on the rest of our fleet and enable us to sustain a high mission capable rate,” Arthur said.
“Having an additional aircraft will give our maintenance team another option to reliably put combat airpower into the skies.”
A “Wi-Fi in the Sky”
Essentially functioning as a low earth satellite, or “Wi-Fi in the sky,” the E-11A is used to provide extended aerial command and control capabilities to air assets and troops on the ground.
The E-11A is the only aircraft of its kind in the Air Force, and all the pilots with the 430th EECS are all volunteers from other airframes.
“Just like America is a melting pot of other nationalities, the 430th is truly a melting pot of the Air Force,” Arthur said. “We have fighter pilots, bomber pilots, transport pilots, tanker pilots, special operations pilots, trainer pilots, test pilots, a program manager and three enlisted career fields.”
Since the BACN mission’s inception in 2008, the 430th has consistently delivered thousands of annual flight hours and proven to be an essential component to modern war fighting.
With the high mission success rates, the E-11A has demonstrated in the Middle East, and the strategic capability advantages the aircraft brings to the joint force, the Air Force has announced plans to bring a new E-11A BACN squadron to Robins Air Force Base, Georgia.
“The US Air Force and U.S. Congress have recognized what the E-11A platform brings to the fight,” Arthur said. “As a result, we are standing up a new squadron of E-11s at Robins AFB in February of 2023.”
As the only E-11A BACN squadron, the 430th EECS will play a key role in helping the Air Force establish a more traditional model with one home station squadron and a deployed squadron.
According to Arthur, the 430th EECS is a unique team with a unique mission set, and he noted that it has been a truly rewarding experience to lead this squadron.
“Having the privilege and honor of commanding some of the best pilots America has to offer is the opportunity of a lifetime and one that will never be forgotten,” Arthur said.