Exercise Pitch Black 18 takes off

Exercise Pitch Black 18 kicked off in Darwin on Monday with more than 60 aircraft from eight nations taking to the skies in under 90 minutes. 

Aircraft from Australia, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, France and the United States took off for the first week of the exercise, known to participants as Force Integration Training (FIT) week.

Commander Task Unit Headquarters for Exercise Pitch Black, Group Captain (GPCAPT) Rob Denney said FIT week is designed to prepare RAAF and international aircrew to operate safely as an integrated force throughout the exercise.

“The missions are based largely around familiarisation training on the basics like radio calls, local Darwin airspace and airfield procedures as well as those of any airfields they may need to divert to.”

“It’s also about getting comfortable with flying as part of larger missions that will include aircraft and aircrew from other participating nations,” he said.

For this first week of familiarisation participating nations will conduct a range of missions including ‘dogfighting’, air-to-air refuelling, beyond-visual-range engagements, and even high-explosive missions utilising the Delamere Weapons Range where aircrew will have the chance to practice coordinating live-fires with a multinational Combat Controller force on the ground.

“A typical mission will differ depending on the aircraft type but for the fighter aircraft it would include coordinating with air traffic control, getting out into the airspace, conducting some air-to-air-refuelling, and then carrying out some basic fighter manoeuvring missions,” GPCAPT Denney said.

“This week prepares everyone for the last two weeks of the exercise where we’ll see the launch of large packages of up to 50 and even 60 aircraft flying together.”

GPCAPT Denney said the airspace in Darwin is potentially the biggest to exercise in anywhere the world offering a unique draw card for Exercise Pitch Black. 

Being less densely populated than most other airspaces in the world, access to the Darwin airspace allows participating nations to operate their aircraft without many of the usual constraints they would otherwise have.

“We’re lucky in Australia to have airspace like this; other countries don’t have that luxury,” GPCAPT Denney said.

“Coming along to Exercise Pitch Black provides them with an excellent opportunity to operate in this unique airspace and gives the Royal Australian Air Force the chance to exercise with our partner air forces, from all around the world, right in our own backyard.” 

The Flying Program for Exercise Pitch Black runs for three weeks from Monday, 30 July to Friday, 17 August.

By Monique Lonsdale

Exercise Flying Schedule: https://www.airforce.gov.au/exercises/Pitch-Black/Flying-Schedule

Download imagery here: http://images.defence.gov.au/S20182614