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RAAF and Luftwaffe train together for first time

written by Adam Thorn | August 17, 2022

The RAAF and German Air Force will train together for the first time this month during Exercise Pitch Black.

The Luftwaffe will send six Eurofighter Typhoons, three A330 multi-role tanker transports, and an A400M to the three-week training program.

The event will take place at Bases Darwin, Tindal, and Amberley from 19 August to 8 September and include entrants from 15 countries.

To mark its participation, the German Air Force painted one of its Eurofighters in a special livery that included the Australian and Japanese flags, pictured above.


Chief of the German Air Force, Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz said, “The Indo-Pacific is of great importance to Germany. We share the same values with many partners in this region.

“Defending those values in case of a war emergency and being able to support our partners is something that needs to be practised.”

It is hoped that Exercise Pitch Black will enable the Luftwaffe to integrate with Australia’s F-35A capabilities.

“The F-35 aircraft will further expand the broad spectrum of our capabilities. Since the Royal Australian Air Force is already flying this combat aircraft, we will be able to learn from them as well,” LTGEN Gerhartz said.

While the Eurofighter is a multi-role aircraft, the German government has confirmed that it will also acquire F-35 systems to replace its ageing Tornados.

Exercise Pitch Black will also mark the first time the RAAF’s own F-35s have taken part in the training program.

“Exercise Pitch Black is the largest Australian-based international exercise 81 Wing has participated in since transitioning to the F-35A and we’re excited by the opportunity to integrate the jet’s advanced capabilities with so many of our international partners,” Commanding Officer of No. 3 Squadron, Wing Commander Adrian Kiely said.

“Across the exercise, we aim to improve our collective air combat capabilities in a complex and contested environment.

“Our focus for Pitch Black is on strengthened international integration, which is paramount to further improving our ability to come together as a highly effective and interoperable force.”

The local community will be provided with an opportunity to see the F-35A aircraft in action while No. 3 Squadron is deployed in the Top End.

“RAAF Base Darwin is one of the premier air combat training locations worldwide,” WGCDR Kiely added.

“Darwin’s base and support agencies are highly adept at facilitating large force employment, and the NT military airspace is among the best in the world.

“We greatly appreciate the ongoing support we receive from NT residents and in particular, the Darwin local community.”

Among the F-35A activities on display will be a handling display at Mindil Beach and on the ground during the RAAF Base Darwin Open Day.

More broadly, it is expected to include day and night flying involving approximately 100 participating aircraft.

The F-35, Australia’s newest fighter jet, was bought to replace the RAAF’s F/A-18A/B Classic Hornets in service since 1985 and retired in late 2021.

Over the coming years, Australia will purchase 72 as part of the $17 billion AIR 6000 Phase 2A/B program, with all expected to be fully operational by 2023.

Thus far, the fighters have clocked in excess of 15,000 flight hours and have already achieved initial operational capability, making it combat-ready.

The aircraft comes in three variants: the F-35A — purchased by Australia — is a conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) version; the F-35B is a short take-off/vertical landing (STOVL) variant, and the final F-35C is the carrier type (CV).

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