Multinational Air Force exercise provides opportunity to improve force integration

Multinational Air Force exercise provides opportunity to improve force integration


Military aircraft from around the Indo-Pacific, as well as the United States, Canada and France, converged on Australian airspace in late July 2018 for one of the region’s largest Air Force exercises.

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) hosts the biennial, three-week Exercise Pitch Black from July 27 to August 17. The 2018 iteration is expected to draw up to 4,000 personnel and 140 aircraft from across the globe. The Indian Air Force also participated for the first time this year. (Pictured: French Air Force Dassault Rafales fly in formation with a No. 33 Squadron KC-30A multirole tanker transport aircraft en route to Australia to participate in Exercise Pitch Black 2018 at Royal Australian Air Force Base Darwin, Northern Territory.)

“Activities such as Exercise Pitch Black recognize the strong relationship Australia has with its participant nations and the high value it places on regional security and fostering ties throughout the Asia-Pacific region,” an RAAF statement read.
Pitch Black features a range of realistic, simulated threats that can be found in a modern-space environment. Its drills provide an opportunity to test and improve force integration by using one of the largest training airspace areas in the world, the RAAF’s Bradshaw Field Training Area and Delamere Air Weapons Range.

Pitch Black began in the mid-1980s as a bilateral air combat exercise between Australia and the U.S., according to Defense News, a global website and magazine. It has since become a complex, air warfare exercise to include large force employment of coalition air power, air-land integration activities and remote airfield operations, Defense News reported.

“The missions are based largely around familiarization training on the basics like radio calls, local Darwin airspace and airfield procedures as well as those of any airfields they may need to divert to,” said Group Capt. Rob Denney, commander of the Task Unit Headquarters for Pitch Black. “It’s also about getting comfortable with flying as part of larger missions that will include aircraft and aircrew from other participating nations.”

Pilots are expected to conduct missions that include dogfighting, air-to-air refueling, beyond-visual-range engagements and high-explosive missions.

“We’re lucky in Australia to have airspace like this; other countries don’t have that luxury,” Denney said, noting that Australia is less densely populated than most other airspaces in the world.

The RAAF’s Darwin airspace affords participating nations the chance to operate their aircraft without any of the usual constraints they would otherwise face.

“Coming along to Exercise Pitch Black provides them with an excellent opportunity to participate in this unique airspace,” Denney said, “and gives the Royal Australian Air Force the chance to exercise with our partner air forces, from all around the world, right in our own backyard.”