Pitch Black 2018 RAAF Darwin

report by: Thierry Letellier

Exercises such as Pitch Black are vital to strenghen Royal Australian Air Force capability to respond whenever the Australian Government requires. The training and integration of forces that occurs during this exercise directly supports Air Force’s ability to conduct operations.  Exercise Pitch Black features a range of realistic, simulated threats which can be found in a modern battle-space environment and is an opportunity to test and improve our force integration, utilising one of the largest training airspace areas in the world — Bradshaw Field Training Area and Delamere Air Weapons Range.  The exercise hosts up to 4000 personnel and up to 140 aircraft from around the globe including participants from Australia, Canada, France (New Caledonia), Germany, Indonesia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, India, Malaysia and the United States and will include day and night flying.


. Established in 1990, Exercise Pitch Black seeks to enhance professionalism and interoperability among the participating forces, and foster closer rapport and mutual understanding among the service personnel. Exercise Pitch Black is a biennial warfare exercise hosted by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). The exercise is normally held in Northern Australia, primarily at RAAF Bases Darwin and Tindal. The aim of the exercise is to practice Offensive Counter Air (OCA) and Defensive Counter Air (DCA) combat, in a simulated war environment. It traditionally consists of a ‘red team’ and a ‘blue team’ based at separate locations, with one attacking the other.

Delamere Air Weapons Range is a bombing range operated by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), located in the Northern Territory. The facility is located about 120 kilometres (75 mi) south of the town of Katherine and RAAF Base Tindal, Australia’s largest airbase.The Delamere facility is managed round-the-clock by a detachment of eight members of the No. 322 Expeditionary Combat Support Squadron RAAF. Its large area—2,110 square kilometres (810 sq mi)[1]—and 60,000 feet (18,000 m) of vertical airspace clearance allow virtually unrestricted freedom of tactical testing and training using any conventional weapons. In addition to its large mass inert weapon range.The Bradshaw Field Training Area (BFTA) is a large area in the Northern Territory used for training by the Australian Army as well as an Australia-US Joint Combined Training Centre. The training area is a former cattle station, Bradshaw Station, which was purchased by the Australian Government for military training in 1996. It occupies approximately 870,000 hectares, starting 500 metres north of the settlement of Timber Creek.

The exercise increased in complexity, with structured missions and combined air operations (COMAO) flown in weeks two and three.  Air-to-air engagements were the focus of the IAF Su-30s, flying in scenarios that pitted as many as 50 Blue Force aircraft against 35 of the Red Force, with the latter being able to re-generate. The Indian Air Force for the first time is participating with fighter aircraft in Exercise Pitch Black 2018 (PB-18)  The IAF contingent consists of 145 air-warriors including Garud team, 04 X Su-30 MKI, 01 X C-130 and 01 X C-17. The contingent will assemble at Air Force Station Kalaikunda and depart for the exercise on 19 Jul 18 from India to Australia via Indonesia. During the flight from India to Australia and back, Su-30 MKI will carry out air to air refueling with IL-78 tankers.


This year, approximately 140 personnel assigned to the 8th Fighter Wing along with 12 F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 80th Fighter Squadron from Kunsan AFB, will exercise the tasking, planning and execution of Offensive Counter Air and Offensive Air Support with partner nations while utilizing one of the largest training airspace areas in the world. The U.S. Marine Corps is represented by Japan-based Boeing F/A-18D Hornets, Lockheed Martin KC-130J Hercules tankers, Bell-Boeing MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft and helicopters from the six-month Marine rotation currently stationed at Darwin in northern Australia . Based on photos just released by the Royal Australian Air Force, the Ospreys were escorted by RAAF PC-9 light air support turboprop aircraft during an insertion drill—a sign of what could come for the tilt-rotor community.


According to a statement from RTAF, the Gripen fleet completed the milestone while participating in Exercise Pitch Black 2018, a biennial three week multinational air exercise conducted by Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). This year marks the largest number of participating countries in Exercise Pitch Black to date, with Singapore having one of the largest representations in terms of assets and manpower. The Republic of Singapore Air Force has deployed about 330 personnel, five F-15SGs, six F-16C/Ds, a Gulfstream 550 Airborne Early Warning (G550-AEW) aircraft and a KC-135R air-to-air refuelling tanker to participate in this year’s exercise.


Indonesia has sent its 8 F-16 C/D Block 52 ID fighter jets to take part in the biennial military drill exercise Pitch Black in RAAF Darwin. Three Dassault Rafale from French Air Force, leaved France for Darwin in northern Australia in late July via stopovers in Al-Dhafra in the United Arab Emirates and Singapore. Following Pitch Black, the French contingent will visit Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and then India before the Rafales return to Al-Dhafra between Aug. 19 and Sept. 4. The Rafales will be joined by a French Air Force Boeing C-135FR Stratotanker, an Airbus A400M strategic airlifter and an Airbus A310 passenger transport aircraft for the deployment. From the UAE, a single Royal Australian Air Force Airbus KC-30A multirole tanker transport will accompany the French aircraft for the journey to Australia. The French deployment is code-named PEGASE 2018.


More than 100 Royal Malaysian Air Force officers and personnel came to Darwin, Australia, to join the three-week Pitch Black warfare exercise. This is Malaysia’s second participation in the exercise since 2008 to undergo training for air combat, the largest exercise in the world. ‘ The exercise also covers a full training spectrum which showcases numerous realistic and simulated threats which can be found in modern air combat,’ said the RMAF First officer during Pitch Black 2018.