Some 110 aircraft and 2,300 personnel from Australia, the US, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates and France are due to take part in Exerise Pitch Black 14, which began on Friday.
The three-week long exercise will see participants conducting offensive counter air and defensive counter air missions from RAAF Bases Darwin and Tindal, utilising the vast Delamere Range Facility and Bradshaw Field Training Area. Participating aircraft types include RAAF classic and Super Hornets, KC-30A tankers, E-7A Wedgetail AEW&C platforms and C-130J Hercules, plus Singaporean F-15SGs and F-16C/Ds, Thai Saab Gripens, Mirage 2000-9s and A330 MRTTs from the the UAE, a CN-235 from New Caledonia, and USAF F-16C/Ds and B-52Hs.
The UAE is a first-time participant in Pitch Black, with its presence built on the strong ties developed between the UAE Air Force and the RAAF following the basing of RAAF aircraft and personnel at the Al Minhad air base near Dubai in support of ADF Middle East Area of Operations (MEAO) deployments. Indonesia, meanwhile, a first-timer at Pitch Black 2012, is noticeable by its absense from this year’s exercise (Indonesia has suspended military exercises with Australia following the Australian government’s implementation of its boat turnback policy for asylum seeker boats).
Pitch Black mission scenarios will increase in complexity and scale as the exercise progresses. Flying is due to begin on Monday and for the first week all flights will take place during the day, followed by day and night flying in the exercise’s second and third weeks.
To mark the exercise, a RAAF F/A-18A will conduct a five-minute handling display over Mindil Beach on August 14 to coincide with the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets.
A full report on Pitch Black 14 is due to appear in the October issue of Australian Aviation.