Balloon highlights Air Force engagement in the Northern Territory

The Royal Australian Air Force Balloon has completed a two-week tour of the Northern Territory in support of community engagement activities for Exercise Pitch Black 18.

Over the past fortnight more than 1000 people have flown in the Balloon including 300 passengers for tethered flights at the Royal Darwin Show from 26 to 28 July.

Exercise Pitch Black 18 will be conducted in Northern Australia from 27 July to 17 August, with forces predominantly based at RAAF Darwin and RAAF Tindal and a forward operating base at Batchelor Airfield.

Squadron Leader Sam Wright, balloon flight commander said the team of six personnel had enjoyed engaging with the community and seeing the Top End from an elevated perspective.

“Over the past two weeks we have visited schools in Darwin, Batchelor and Katherine and engaged with school students and the community to highlight the exercise and promote a positive image of Air Force,” SQNLDR Wright said.

“It’s great to be up here in this part of the world to promote Air Force - the response from the community has been exceptional.

“Our school trip to the Nightcliff Primary School was the biggest day of walkthroughs we have ever had with 650 school students taking a close look at the balloon to see how it works.” 

Exercise Pitch Black 18 is the Royal Australian Air Force’s biennial, capstone International Engagement activity with Air Forces participating from a range of regional, coalition and allied nations.

Sixteen nations are participating in Exercise Pitch Black 18 including international participants from Canada, France (with New Caledonia), Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Sweden, Thailand and the United States.

The exercise will include day and night flying involving up to 140 participating aircraft.

About 4,000 personnel have deployed to the Northern Territory for the exercise including 2,600 Australian personnel and about 1400 international participants.

By SQNLDR Peter Croce

Download imagery here: http://images.defence.gov.au/S20182599