The U.S. Air Force announced plans recently that the 319th Reconnaissance Wing at Grand Forks Air Force Base will now provide command and control support for the Air Force’s Bombardier E-11A Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) aircraft mission. Under the proposed plan, which is contingent on Congressional approval of the retirement of four E-8 JSTARS at Robins AFB, Georgia, an E-11 squadron at Robins AFB would be a geographically separated unit reporting to the 319th RW.
“As the Air Force looks to the future, we expect to be challenged around the world by China and Russia,” said Acting Secretary of the Air Force John P. Roth. “Those threats require new solutions, which means divesting legacy platforms like the JSTARS. However, our intent is to capitalize on the existing expertise at Team Robins as we bring on these new missions. These missions will play a vital role in how we achieve decision superiority across all domains.”
As part of its fiscal year 2020 budget request, the Air Force requested to begin retiring four E-8 aircraft next year, which would make way for the new E-11 BACN mission at Robins AFB. E-11 BACN aircraft and a squadron of active-duty personnel will enable communications support to the joint force on the modern battlefield. Pending the passing of the National Defense Authorization Act with provisions for JSTARS retirement, the E-11 mission is expected to stand up next year.
The U.S. Air Force already possesses three E-11s, and will continue to take delivery until the full fleet inventory is achieved. Nine E-11 BACN aircraft and a squadron of approximately 290 active-duty personnel will execute a mission with a very high-ops tempo, enabling communications support to the joint force on the modern battlefield. The Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) is a United States Air Force (USAF) airborne communications relay and gateway system carried by the unmanned EQ-4B and the manned Bombardier E-11A aircraft.