Large Force Employment Training

Pitch Black 18

It’s not every day you find military personnel from 16 countries working side by side; however, that is exactly what Exercise Pitch Black 18 is all about.

Exercise Director, Group Captain (GPCAPT) Matthew McCormack, said that the training scenarios developed for the second half of the international air exercise helped to develop the skills of the diverse team so that they were able to operate effectively as part of a large force.

“The exercise construct has the ‘good guys’ flying out of Darwin each day to conduct weapons release operations and practise hitting targets on the ground in mock scenarios focused on assisting a neutral country located to the south of Darwin.”

“The ‘bad guys’ operating out of Tindal are focused on disrupting the coalition mission and ultimately gaining superiority of the airspace.

“We are getting good lessons by operating both during the day and at night.”

The exercise control force known as white force are in charge of developing scenarios and setting exercise parameters. They also ensure all participating nations have the opportunity to practise as a sub unit commander for a strike or offensive counter air mission and then to further command as a mission commander.

“The opportunity for multiple mission commanders from different nations is great as everyone learns from each other’s experience,” GPCAPT McCormack said.

“By working closely with our international partners we make sure we know how to work together and operate together so that if need be in the future, we will be able to do this in a real operation.”

Major Faiz Fauzi, an F/A-18 pilot from the Royal Malaysian Air Force, said that although the exercise was challenging it has been a positive experience for his team and there had been many lessons learnt. 

“The opportunity to practice as part of a large force employment is something different for the RMAF as it isn’t usual to practice back home with so many aircraft.”

“Operating here on Exercise Pitch Black gives us the opportunity to operate on a large scale with different nations, different procedures but with a group of people who operate in a similar way.”

Large Force Employment exercises are instrumental in giving pilots the opportunity to practise in a complex environment with a greater number of aircraft in the airspace than normal training would usually allow. Exercise Pitch Black is the capstone Air Force event which provides our aircrew this opportunity.

By FLTLT Alyssa Vickridge