The history of the US Air Force private jet that crashed in Afghanistan and has been called 'as essential to mission success as bullets'

tpallini@businessinsider.com (Thomas Pallini)
Air Force E-11A Crash Afganistan

Anna-Marie Wyant/DVIDS/US Air Force

  • A US Air Force military aircraft crashed in Afghanistan, killing all on board.
  • The aircraft was an E-11A communications aircraft, the military version of a popular private jet aircraft made by Canada's Bombardier. 
  • Though the US denied it was shot down, the aircraft had a no-fatality safety record in civilian and military use.
  • Following the crash, members of the US Navy's SEAL Team Six recovered two bodies and the aircraft's flight recorder, Reuters reported.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The US Air Force confirmed on Monday that one of its aircraft had crashed in Afghanistan, killing all on board.

The aircraft was a Bombardier E-11A, the military version of the popular Bombardier Global Express aircraft family used by the world's elite for long-range travel.

Though the Taliban has taken credit, Air Force officials have denied that it was shot down.

The Air Force frequently uses modified versions of civilian aircraft for its transport and combat missions,including those used by the 89th Airlift Wing which flies the president of the US.

While CEOs and the upper echelon of society use the civilian version of the E-11A to jet-set around the world in style and comfort, the Air Force has a different mission for it, facilitating communication between military forces in the field.

Here's what we know about the aircraft.

The Bombardier E-11A is the military version of the Bombardier Global Express family.

Bombardier Global 6000 VistaJet

David Slotnick/Business Insider

Source: US Air Force

The Global Express is one of the largest wide cabin VIP aircraft produced by Bombardier of Canada's private jet division.

Bombardier Global 6000 VistaJet

David Slotnick/Business InsiderThe Canadian aircraft manufacturer's Global Express product line is a director competitor to Gulfstream, whose planes are also used by the Air Force.

A US Air Force Gulfstream C-20

Kevin Wallace/DVIDS/US Air ForceFor the Air Force, however, it has a much different mission.

Air Force E-11A Crash Afghanistan

Anna-Marie Wyant/DVIDS/US Air ForceThe aircraft is used to facilitate communications, acting as a central hub for communications between forces both on the ground and in the air.

Air Force E-11A Crash Afghanistan

Anna-Marie Wyant/DVIDS/US Air Force

Source: US Air Force

A flying repeater, the aircraft allows forces to communicate with each other even when separated via mountains or obstacles or when using different communications systems.

Air Force E-11A Crash Afghanistan

Anna-Marie Wyant/DVIDS/US Air Force

Source: Air Force Mag

The Air Force had only four of the aircraft in its fleet.

Air Force E-11A Crash Afghanistan

Anna-Marie Wyant/DVIDS/US Air Force

Source: Military Times

The aircraft is rare and only operates in Afghanistan, so new pilots usually have their first time at the controls when flying over combat areas.

Air Force E-11A Crash Afghanistan

Anna-Marie Wyant/DVIDS/US Air Force

Source: Air Force Mag

Its sole base of operations is in Kandahar, Afghanistan, where the US military has been embroiled in war since 2001.

U.S. airmen prepare a U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone as it leaves on a mission at Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan March 9, 2016. Picture taken March 9, 2016. REUTERS/Josh Smith

Thomson Reuters

Source: US Air Force

The name for the program is Battlefield Operational Communication Node, or BACN for short, like the breakfast food.

Air Force E-11A Crash Afghanistan

94th Airlift Wing/DVIDS/US Air Force

Source: US Air Force

Though the range of the Air Force's variant is unknown, the civilian version of the aircraft has a range upwards of 6,000 nautical miles, according to Bombardier, making it ideal for long endurance flights over battlefields.

Bombardier Global Express

MyLoupe/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Source: Bombardier

Though not as fast as other Air Force planes, Bombardier reports the civilian version of the Global Express XRS aircraft have a maximum speed of around Mach .88, greater than 600 miles per hour.

Air Force E-11A Crash Afghanistan

Anna-Marie Wyant/DVIDS/US Air Force

Source: Bombardier

Its creation for born out of necessity when the military wanted to shore up communications following the rescue of Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, a mission which was later turned into the movie "Lone Survivor."

Lone Survivor Exercise

Justyn Freeman/DVIDS/US Air Force

Source: US Air Force

Now, the Air Force refers to the aircraft as "as essential to mission success as bullets."

Air Force E-11A Crash Afghanistan

Capt. Keenan Kunst

Source: US Air Force

The aircraft has a strong safety record, with no recorded fatalities in the aircraft family's 27-year history before the recent incident.

Bombardier Global Express

Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan/Getty Images

Source: Aviation Safety Network

This would be the first time that a Global Express aircraft crashed without outside interference.

afghanistan plane crash us air force

Reuters

Source: Aviation Safety Network

Following the crash, news sources reported that members of the US Navy's SEAL Team Six recovered two bodies and the aircraft's flight recorder, which can better tell what brought the aircraft down.

The wreckage of an airplane is seen after a crash in Deh Yak district of Ghazni province, Afghanistan January 27, 2020.

Reuters

Read the original article on Business Insider