Mysterious crash in Afghanistan could be USAF plane

Initially thought to be a passenger flight, the aircraft that crashed in Ghazni region, Afghanistan, now appears to be a USAF Northrop Grumman E-11A communication relay plane.

Early on January 27, 2020, news emerged that an aircraft went down in the eastern province of Ghazni, to the south-west of the capital, Kabul. The local governor’s office originally said the aircraft was “a Boeing plane belonging to the Ariana Afghan Airline”. However, the national carrier’s CEO denied it, saying all planes were accounted for. The Afghan Civil aviation authority supported the idea that no Afghan civilian aircraft crashed.  

Later that day, photos and footage of the aircraft crash site began emerging online. The wreckage turned out to be much smaller than a Boeing airliner, and sporting a peculiar livery. 

Upon further examination, the plane resembles a Northrop Grumman E-11A, used by the United States Air Force as a communication relay plane. The tail number reads 358, which could correspond to 11-9358, delivered to the USAF in March 2013. The aircraft has been flying with the 430th Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron, stationed at Kandahar Air Base, southern Afghanistan.

The U.S. military has not confirmed the information yet. Beth Riordan, a spokeswoman for U.S. Central Command, said the incident was being investigated. No official death toll is available yet.

Based on the Bombardier Global Express 6000, the E-11A is equipped with a Battlefield Airborne Communication Node (BACN) system, developed by Northrop Grumman. The system allows the aircraft to be used as an airborne communication relay, transmitting critical information from one military unit to the other.

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