Four Indonesian Sukhoi Su-27 and Su-30 ‘Flanker’ fighters touched down in Darwin yesterday as the top line Russian-built jets made their first visit to Australia.
The arrival of the jets, ahead of the bi-annual ‘Pitch Black’ air combat exercise, marks the first time RAAF personnel will have come in close contact with the advanced Russian-made fighters, designed as a foil to ‘fourth-generation’ US-built warplanes such as the F-15.
More significantly, the arrival marks the first time Indonesia has taken part in the exercise, reflecting a key Australian foreign policy goal of strengthening ties with its populous neighbour.
Billed as the largest air force exercise in the South Hemisphere, this year’s Pitch Black 12 includes 94 aircraft and some 2,200 personnel from six countries, including Australia, the US, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and New Zealand. In addition to the Indonesia fighters, aircraft making a first appearance in the exercise include the RAAF’s F/A-18F Super Hornet, Wedgetail AEW&C aircraft and KC-30 Multi-Role Tanker Transport, as well as Singapore’s F-15SG Eagle. The exercise also marks the last time the RAAF’s C-130H Hercules transports will take part, with those aircraft scheduled for retirement later this year.
The exercise, which started today and runs through August 17, is built on a scenario in which two rival air forces square off for control of a massive swath of airspace over the Delamere Range and Bradshaw Filed Training Area in the Northern Territory, with one air force based at RAAF Darwin and the other at RAAF Tindal near Katherine. The scenario progressively heats up over the course of the exercise, so residents can expect increasing noise levels come mid-August.
But anyone who hasn’t had enough fighter jets can view a static display of 21 of the warplanes at RAAF Darwin as part of an open day on August 11. More details on the open day are available on the RAAF’s website.