Largest ever Pitch Black drills take off

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Exercise Pitch Black, Australia’s largest international air combat training engagement will begin on July 12 until August 2 over the airspace of the Northern Territory. Exercise Pitch Black is the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) most significant flying activity for strengthening international engagement and enhancing their ability to work with overseas partners.

This year’s iteration of Pitch Black will see more than 140 combat aircraft and over 4000 personnel from 20 nations taking part in the biennial exercise, the largest ever in its 43 years of existence. Pitch Black is mainly a series of increasingly complex joint-force scenarios with combat aircraft and supporting aircraft such as tankers which provide air-to-air refuelling (AAR) support while airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft watch the skies. The aircraft would operate from the RAAF air bases Darwin and Tindal with additional tanker and transport aircraft operating from Queensland’s Amberley base.

The air forces of France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand, the United Kingdom, the United States deployed various aircraft to participate, including first-timers the Philippines, Spain, Italy, and Papua New Guinea. Personnel from Fiji and Brunei will also take part in the exercise for the first time alongside their Canadian and New Zealand counterparts. The US and European Multinational Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) unit are also present at Pitch Black 2024.

Italian Navy aircraft carrier ITS Cavour pulls alongside East Arm Wharf, Darwin, ready to participate in Exercise Pitch Black 24. *** Local Caption *** Exercise Pitch Black 24 is the Royal Australian Air Force’s biennial capstone international engagement exercise, with forces drawn from a wide range of regional, coalition, and allied nations. Held from 12 July to 2 August 2024, the exercise is concentrated on military airspace in the Northern Territory, with participants flying from RAAF Bases Darwin, Tindal, Amberley, Curtin, and regional airfields in the Kimberley region. Exercise Pitch Black 24 is the largest iteration of the exercise since first held in 1981, with 20 participating nations and over 140 aircraft involved, and approximately 4400 personnel from Australia and overseas participating. Activities such as Exercise Pitch Black help Australia to advance a free and open Indo-Pacific region, build connections around the globe, bolster regional security, and build regional resilience to transnational threats.

Another milestone is the participation of the Italian Navy’s ITS Cavour aircraft carrier and its embarked aircraft.-shp/adj/dl (Pix:Australia DOD)

Among the aircraft taking part in the event are:

Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF)

Boeing EA-18G Growler, F/A-18F Super Hornet, E-7A Wedgetail AEW&C, Lockheed Martin F-35A, C-130J Hercules, Airbus A330/KC-30A MRTT

French Air and Space Force (FASF)

Dassault Rafale, Airbus A330 MRTT, A400M, CN235

German Air Force

Eurofighter Typhoon, Airbus A330 MRTT, A400M

Indian Air Force (IAF)

Sukhoi Su-30MKI Flanker

Indonesian Air Force

Lockheed Martin F-16A/B/C/D

Italian Air Force

Lockheed Martin F-35A, F-35B, C-130J Hercules, Eurofighter Typhoon, G550 AEW&C, Boeing KC-767

Italian Navy

Lockheed Martin F-35B, AV-8B Harrier II

Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF)

Mitsubishi F-2A/B, Boeing E-767 airborne early warning and control (AWACS)

Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF)


Philippine Air Force (PAF)

Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) FA-50PH Fighting Eagle

Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF)

Boeing F/A-18D Hornet, Airbus A400M

Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF)

Boeing F-15K Slam Eagle

Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF)

Lockheed Martin F-16C/D, Boeing F-15SG, G550 CAEW&C, Airbus A330 MRTT

Royal Air Force (RAF)

Eurofighter Typhoon, Airbus A330/Voyager MRTT

Spanish Air and Space Force (SASF)

Eurofighter Typhoon, Airbus A400M

Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF)

Saab JAS-39C/D Gripen

United States Air Force (USAF)

Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor

United States Marine Corps (USMC)

Bell Boeing MV-22 Osprey