Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Combat Aircraft Monthly 2011-09

The USAF has formally purchased a Bombardier BD-700 Global Express aircraft from Northrop Grumman System Corporation at a cost of $18.1 million. The aircraft, which is equipped with Northrop Grumman's Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN), has already been operated over Afghanistan as a communications relay platform under a lease agreement with the contractor. After taking outright possession of the new aircraft it was assigned the mission design series (MDS) designation E-11A. The BACN, which allows numerous battlefield communications systems to share data, has been installed on two other BD-700 Global Express airframes as well as a pair of Block 20 RQ-4B Global Hawks in response to an urgent-need request from the combatant commander in south-west Asia. The BACN was originally deployed in October 2008 and will likely be used for testing additional upgrades. In June 2011, the USAF extended a contract with Northrop Grumman that covers the operation, support and maintenance of the E-11A and the BACN until November 2011 at a cost of $20.6 million. Northrop Grumman and Orion Air Group provide operational support of the BACN system. The BACN system completed its 2,000th mission in support of Operation 'Enduring Freedom'on June 25 and has to date accumulated over 20,000 operational flight hours, achieving a mission availability rate of 98 per cent.