Exercise Pitch Black 2022 Is In Full Swing

Pitch Black
Exercise Pitch Black, RAAF, Royal Australian Air Force,

Combat aircraft from all around the world gathered in Australia for the largest edition of the exercise.

After four years of wait the biennial exercise Pitch Black is back with its largest edition ever. The Australian multi-national large force exercise is now underway, spanning from Aug. 19 to Sept. 8, 2022, and sees over 100 aircraft and 2,500 personnel from 16 countries around the world training together with Australian forces to enhance interoperability and develop strong relationships between participating military forces.

“With 16 nations participating, Exercise Pitch Black is an excellent opportunity for RAAF to work with our allies and partners, sharing tactics and procedures that will enhance interoperability between our forces”, said the Exercise Commander, Air Commodore Tim Alsop. The countries involved in the exercise are Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Indonesia, India, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand, UAE, US and UK.

The Exercise Commander also added: “Several countries are participating in Pitch Black for the first time, and we welcome them to the exercise and the magnificent Northern Territory.” In fact, Germany, Japan and South Korea are taking part for the first time in the exercise with their Eurofighter 2000s, Mitsubishi F-2s and KF-16Us (Korean F-16V variant), respectively. The fighters and the support aircraft are distributed among three RAAF bases, Darwin, Tindal and Amberley.

Exercise Pitch Black 2022 is the Royal Australian Air Force’s most significant International Engagement activity with forces participating from a wide range of partner and allied nations. The exercise features a range of realistic, simulated threats which can be found in a modern battle-space environment and represents an opportunity to test and improve force integration by utilising one of the largest training airspace areas in the world over the Northern Territory and Queensland. There will not be any overarching scenario for the exercise, with each mission being executed as a stand-alone mission with distinct training objectives.

“Pitch Black is a large force employment exercise, driven by fighter combat scenarios. This year, significant efforts have been made to advance the air-to-air refuelling capability between many of the participating nations.” Air Commodore Alsop said. “Air-to-air refuelling is a force multiplier, providing essential reach to our combat aircraft. Working with many of the participating nations aims to increase our force projection and maximise our capability.”

In fact, there is an important presence of the Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport variants, which is in fact, the only tanker type participating in Pitch Black 2022. Among the aircraft, we can find KC-30s, Voyagers and A330 MRTTs from Australia, UK, France, South Korea, Singapore and the NATO MMF force. Many of these tankers supported the long-range deployments from their countries to Australia, with some notable examples.

Germany, for instance, deployed six Eurofighters, four A400M and three A330 MRTT aircraft and 250 service members to Australia. They flew 12,800 kilometres in 24 hours from Germany to Singapore, as the first act of the Operation Rapid Pacific 2022 deployment. “Rapid Pacific is the largest and most challenging deployment the German Air Force has ever seen,” said the Chief of the German Air Force, Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz, emphasizing the special significance of the project.

The Eurofighters, belonging to the Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 74 at Neuburg / Donau airbase, included a special color aircraft with the countries that they will visit: Singapore, Australia, South Korea and Japan. In fact, after the conclusion of Pitch Black 2022, they will return to Singapore before moving to Japan and South Korea and then back to Germany through Singapore.

Something similar is being done by the French Air and Space Force with their Pegase 2022 mission. Three Rafale fighters of the Escadron de Chasse 3/30 «Lorraine», two A330 MRTT Phénix and two A400M Atlas were deployed to New Caledonia in less than 72hours for combat training, before moving to Australia for Pitch Black 2022. After the end of the exercise, they will visit Indonesia, Singapore and the UAE before returning to France.

Interestingly, France also supported with one tanker the deployment of Indian Su-30MKI fighter jets, representing the first time French tankers refueled Indian aircraft on a long-range deployment. The four Flankers were already deployed in Malaysia for a bilateral exercise, from where they moved to Australia for Pitch Black 22.

Even more interestingly, the RAAF released some footage with cockpit view of its EA-18G Growler Wild Weasel aircraft as they engaged in simulated air-to-air combat, or DACT(Dissimilar Air Combat Training), with the SU-30MKIs.

About Stefano D'Urso
Stefano D'Urso is a freelance journalist and contributor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he's also studying to achieve a Master Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Electronic Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT techniques applied to the world of military operations and current conflicts are among his areas of expertise.