A U.S. Air Force E-11A Battlefield Airborne Control Node, or BACN, aircraft has crashed in Afghanistan, and the Taliban says it shot the highly specialized plane down.
The aircraft reportedly came down in the Dih Yak district of Afghanistan’s Ghazni province at around 1:10 PM local time, Arif Noori, a spokesperson for the provincial government, told The Associated Press.
Noori did not identify the aircraft or its owner and there were initial reports that an airliner from Ariana Afghan Airlines, the country’s flag carrier, was involved.
Ariana had already denied those reports by the time the pictures and video footage, which clearly shows the burned-out fuselage of an E-11A, as well as a corresponding serial number on its tail, 11-9358, emerged.
The Taliban, who are in control of the Dih Yak region in Afghanistan, have claimed they shot down the aircraft and that it killed everyone on board, including “high-ranking CIA officers.”
— Melange TV (@melange_tv) January 27, 2020
There is nothing to substantiate any of these assertions and, despite the group’s insistence, the E-11A is not an intelligence-gathering aircraft, US media says.
U.S. Central Command says it is aware of the reports of a U.S. aircraft crash in Afghanistan. “We are currently monitoring the situation and will provide additional information when possible." https://t.co/7i7qjBuGM7
— W.J. Hennigan (@wjhenn) January 27, 2020
The Air Force has a total of four E-11As, including the one that has now crashed.
These planes are based on the Bombardier BD-700 Global Express business jet, which are forward-deployed in Afghanistan assigned to the 430th Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron at Kandahar Airfield.
JUST IN: The Taliban says it shot down a special U.S. aircraft that was on an intelligence mission, according to the group’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed
According to Mujahed's statement on WhatsApp, “All onboard including high-ranking CIA officers were killed” pic.twitter.com/TGjToQ9Hs5
— QuickTake by Bloomberg (@QuickTake) January 27, 2020
These aircraft carry the Battlefield Airborne Control Node (BACN) payload, which allows them to act as highly specialized aerial communications nodes that can rapidly shift information to and from a wide variety of airborne platforms and forces on the ground. There are also three EQ-4B Global Hawk drones that carry the BACN package.
The small number of BACN platforms makes them the very definition of a high-value, but low-density asset