Exercise Pitch Black 18 has successfully concluded in the Northern Territory following three weeks of intensive air operations conducted by 16 nations.
This year’s exercise saw over 1120 missions conducted from July 27 to August 17, with more than 4000 Australian and international participants and up to 140 aircraft involved.
The exercise aims to strengthen regional partnerships, improve interoperability between nations and promote regional stability, according to Air Commodore Mike Kitcher, Officer Conducting the Exercise.
“The strength of this year’s exercise is not just in its size, but in its variety – there’s not been a Pitch Black with the diversity we’ve witnessed in 2018,” Air Commodore Kitcher said.
“When this exercise began in 1981, it was a few hundred Australians and Americans conducting air defence training in the Northern Territory.”
“The diversity of Exercise Pitch Black 18 – whether it’s the range of nations involved, the different roles practiced, and even the participants themselves – all contribute to Air Force being better prepared for future operations.”
Major exercise highlights included the debut of Australia’s E/A-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft, and C-27J Spartan battlefield airlifter; and the creation of a Forward Operating Base at Batchelor Airfield, allowing Defence to rehearse delivery of forces for a peacekeeping or humanitarian response.
International highlights include the Indian Air Force participating for the first time with the C-130J Hercules and Su-30 Flanker aircraft as well as the Armee de l’Air (French Air Force) flying with the Rafales.
This is the second time the Indonesian Air Force has participated with the F-16 Falcon aircraft.
In one of the largest military training airspaces in the world, participant Air Forces at Exercise Pitch Black 18 flew coordinated missions with up to 80 aircraft at a time.
For the Northern Territory public, highlights of this year’s Exercise Pitch Black included the Mindil Beach Flypasts and Flying Display, and an Open Day at RAAF Base Darwin which attracted up to 20,000 people.
“The support we get from the Northern Territory community is incredibly important to Exercise Pitch Black and Air Force, and we’re grateful for the positive response we receive,” Air Commodore Kitcher said.
“Many of the international participants would have been visiting Australia for the first time at this exercise, we’re proud they’ve experienced our country through the Northern Territory.”
The exercise will return to the Northern Territory in mid-2020.
By FLTLT Eamon Hamilton