australian aviation logo

RAAF F-35As to light up Exercise Pitch Black

written by Adam Thorn | August 13, 2022

The RAAF’s newest F-35A Lightning II aircraft arrive at RAAF Base Williamtown. (Corporal Craig Barrett)

RAAF’s F-35s will take part in Exercise Pitch Black for the first time from 19 August to 8 September.

The three-week training program in the Northern Territory is conducted at Base Darwin and Tindal, with Base Amberley in Queensland also included. It will include counterparts from 15 countries.

“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).

Australian Aviation reported earlier this month how the RAAF would continue to fly its F-35s despite the US and Israeli air forces grounding their fleets over an ejector seat fault.

Defence told Australian Aviation sister brand Defence Connect in a statement it had undertaken an “independent risk assessment” and would review its decision if new information came to light.


You need to be a member to post comments. Become a member today!

Comment (1)

  • Colin Morris


    Exercise will include participants from 15 countries. Reporting in Australian media is so very Australian focused, not surprisingly.
    However surely it is important to note which countries are participating in this 3 week exercise.?
    Are all 15 contributing aircraft or are most of the 15 participants just sending official ( and senior) observors?

    A similar lack of information occurred during the recent Defence Chiefs conference in Sydney. It was quoted that 72 countries participated but , apart from US/UK and France no other details were given. Why the secrecy?

Comments are closed.

You don't have credit card details available. You will be redirected to update payment method page. Click OK to continue.