Air Force officials are working to integrate the contract-operated Battlefield Airborne Communications Node fleet as permanent Air Force assets, officials said. The mixed fleet of specially modified E-11A business jets and RQ-4B Global Hawks have provided beyond line-of-sight networking to keep ground troops in contact in the mountains of Afghanistan since 2009. The President’s Fiscal 2015 budget contains funding to keep BACN flying on a contract basis, but Air Combat Command officials are looking to make BACN a long-term program of record, according to a May 29 release. “We’re proud to provide that support and want to continue providing it as long as it’s needed,” said BACN deputy program manager Jennifer Gould. Manned E-11As recently surpassed 5,000 combat sorties in Southwest Asia while the EQ-4Bs set a monthly sortie record logging 30 flights in April, according to officials.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.