Robins Seeks To Bring BACN Home As Part Of New Air Force Proposal

The Air Force enraged Georgian lawmakers in 2018 when it demanded to begin removing the E-8C Joint STARS ground target pursuit jets from the state without ready replacements. Now the service is spreading an olive branch: to donate a fleet of E-11A airborne communications jets to Robins Air Force Base if Congress allows it to send four JSTARS jets to the cemetery.

“As the Air Force looks to the future, we expect to be challenged around the world by China and Russia,” Acting Air Force Secretary said on Wednesday. John Roth in a press release. “These threats require new solutions, which means moving away from legacy platforms such as JSTARS.”

Under the new proposal, Robins would get a squadron of E-11A Battlefield Airborne Communications Node aircraft – Bombardier business jets that are heavily modified with radios and other systems that allow planes to communicate with each other in flight. during military missions.

The E-11s are flown overseas by the 430th Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron alone. The Air Force already owns three BACN jets and plans to purchase six more, including two in fiscal 2022.

“Nine E-11 BACNs and a squadron of approximately 290 active duty personnel will perform a mission with a very high [operational] tempo, allowing communications support to the joint force on the modern battlefield, ”the Air Force said.

It could be a boon to Robins and Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota. The service said Robins Airmen will provide command and control support for the E-11A mission as a detachment from the 319th Reconnaissance Wing in Grand Forks, which flies the RQ-4 Global Hawk Reconnaissance UAV.

“Bringing the E-11 under the jurisdiction of the 319th Reconnaissance Wing at Grand Forks Air Force Base is a recognition of the base’s incredible leadership, a recognition of the base’s importance to the defense of the nation. , and a reminder of how the base is responsible for so much more than can be physically seen there, ”said Senator Kevin Cramer, R-North Dakota on Wednesday. “Today’s announcement will also help solidify the base’s long-term success and stability in Grand Forks.

A press release from Cramer’s office said the BACN mission would be held next year, pending wording for the 2022 Tax Defense Policy Bill which the senator “will help craft as a member of [the Senate Armed Services Committee.”

For the BACN plan to move forward, that legislation also needs to green-light retirement of four of the 16 JSTARS jets. Congress has told the military that if it wants to ditch the E-8C, it needs to make substantial progress toward a replacement network of aircraft, sensors, weapons and data analytics systems known as the Advanced Battle Management System.

The Air Force said in May that BACN would be one of four new missions at Robins, home of the JSTARS enterprise in the active-duty 461st Air Control Wing and the Air National Guard’s 116th Air Control Wing.

Other future missions may include classified support to ABMS starting in 2023, an active-duty electromagnetic spectrum warfare group that could arrive in 2024, and a command-and-control squadron that would handle daily operations in the Middle East beginning in 2022.

The Air Force has suggested all active-duty airmen and Guardsmen at Robins would staff those new missions. The base employs nearly 24,000 military personnel, civilians and contractors.

“I am committed to working with the Air Force to bring [the four new missions] ultimately, to ensure the continuity of an operational flight mission at the base, to ensure a full role for active and guard personnel, and to make Robins the hub of the future communication structure of the Air Force that will answer the call of today’s threat environment, ”said Senator Raphael Warnock, D-Georgia, in a joint statement with other lawmakers and state military officials in June.

Rachel Cohen joined the Air Force Times as a senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has been featured in Air Force Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), The Washington Post and others. .

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