Exercise Pitch Black returns from 12 July to 2 August 2024, and the Royal Australian Air Force would like to thank communities across northern Australia once again for their interest and tremendous support.

Held every two years, Exercise Pitch Black focuses on large force employment missions involving large numbers of international aircraft.

Exercise Pitch Black 24 will be the largest in the exercise’s 43-year history. It will bring together 20 participating nations and over 140 aircraft from around the world, with approximately 4435 personnel participating.

This year’s exercise will be conducted primarily from RAAF Base Darwin and RAAF Base Tindal in the Northern Territory; with additional aircraft operating from RAAF Base Amberley, located near Ipswich in Queensland.

Exercise Pitch Black is the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) most significant flying activity for strengthening international engagement and enhancing our ability to work with overseas partners.

The exercise ensures Air Force is responsive whenever the Australian Government requires. It allows Australia to contribute to the sovereign security of participating nations, ensuring they too are ready to respond to contingency operations.

For international participants, there is significant benefit to participating in Exercise Pitch Black 24. It provides experience in how to deploy over great distances, with some countries travelling from around the globe to reach Australia.

Once they arrive, international participants conduct force integration with other nations and their capabilities, and the work firsthand with their foreign counterparts.

This International participation in Exercise Pitch Black provides a unique opportunity for these nations to see and experience Australia – from within our local community, and through to our skies.

This exercise provides an environment for training and integration that directly supports international participants training requirements, and their ability to support operations in the Indo-Pacific.

At the individual level, the exercise builds strong relationships between aviators and personnel from across the Indo-Pacific region, and further abroad in Europe.

It recognises Australia’s strong relationships with other nations, and reinforces the value placed on regional security and fostering closer ties throughout the Indo-Pacific region and around the world.

Exercise Pitch Black 24 involves some of the most advanced air combat capabilities in the world, flown and supported by a highly-skilled workforce in a challenging training environment.

The exercise will also support a concurrent International Observer Group program in order to provide an opportunity for foreign forces to gain an appreciation of how Australia prepares for, and executes major activities.

For more information please contact: PB.media@defence.gov.au

Background

Air Force has a long history of conducting air exercises in the Northern Territory, including High-series of exercises in the 1960s; and Top-series in the early 1970s. Many of these involved integration with the Royal Air Force and Royal New Zealand Air Force.

Exercise Pitch Black was first held from RAAF Base Williamtown in New South Wales in June 1981 as a three-day air defence exercise, with ‘attacking’ aircraft flying from RAAF Bases Amberley and Richmond. It was held again from RAAF Base Williamtown in July 1982.

The name ‘Pitch Black’ is believed to be derived from the emphasis on night-time flying over large unpopulated areas during these early exercises, although the exercise was not conducted on moonless nights as some have suggested.

Exercise Pitch Black was held at RAAF Base Darwin for the first time over 9-13 May 1983, remaining as an air defence exercise that included RAAF Mirage III fighters and F-111C strike jets, with international participation from United States Air Force.

It was the first major RAAF exercise to be conducted in Darwin after Cyclone Tracy hit the city in 1974.

Since then, Exercise Pitch Black has been conducted in the Northern Territory (with the exception of 1986 and 2002), and held biennially since 1998 (with the exception of 2020, cancelled due to CoVID-19 pandemic).

Over the history of the exercise, more than 20 nations have travelled to Australia to participate in Exercise Pitch Black, along with two international contingents (NATO and Multinational MRTT Unit).