Royal Air Force jets join major air exercise in Australia

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Photographer: AS1 Ryan Murray RAF - UK MOD © Crown copyright 2022

Royal Air Force Typhoon fighter jets and a Voyager Air-to-Air refuelling tanker have arrived in Australia to participate in a major training exercise.

Hosted by the Royal Australian Air Force, Exercise Pitch Black will see up to a 100 aircraft and around 2500 personnel from 17 nations train together for three weeks. 

Held biennially, the large force employment exercise will be conducted primarily from RAAF bases Darwin and Tindal in the Northern Territory.

Exercise participants include Australia, UK, Indonesia, India, Singapore, Japan, Republic of Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, UAE, Canada, Netherlands, Malaysia, New Zealand, France, Germany, and the US.

Photographer: Wing Commander John Eklund RAF – UK MOD © Crown copyright 2022

During the exercise the RAF contingent will join European NATO Allies from France and Germany to exercise with RAAF aircraft and also aircraft from regional powers such as Japan, the Republic of Korea and Singapore.

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 force integration, utilising one of the largest training airspace areas in the world — Bradshaw Field Training Area and Delamere Air Weapons Range.

Wing Commander Noel Rees, Officer Commanding 6 Squadron who led the Typhoons into Darwin said:

“The relationship between the RAF and RAAF is a close and enduring one and we’re delighted to be invited to participate in what promises to be a very realistic and challenging exercise.

“The high-end training and complex exercise environment offered by Pitch Black combined with the opportunity to share best practise with so many other partners and allies is invaluable. Our presence here is also a further demonstration of the UK’s longstanding commitment to deepening cooperation and engagement in the Indo-Pacific.”

The RAF Typhoons from 6 Squadron flew from RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus and were Air-to-Air refuelled en-route by a RAF Voyager tanker which also carried support aviators and equipment. The 8600 nautical mile journey, which included overnight stops in the United Arab Emirates, India and Singapore, was also supported by an Atlas transport aircraft.

Group Captain Peter Wood, RAAF Director Engagement said:

“International participation in Exercise Pitch Black, from within the Indo-Pacific region and further abroad, provides all nations’ personnel with experience in working with aircraft, systems and work practices, in northern Australia’s unique environment that would otherwise be unfamiliar.”

Throughout the exercise the Voyager will provide fuel to both the RAF Typhoons and fast jets from other participating nations. Voyager Detachment Commander, Squadron Leader Andy Brown said:

“Enabling the deployment of four Typhoons half way around the world is a great example of the essential air mobility role Voyager delivers in the projection of RAF air power. The challenge of ensuring a smooth and safe global transit has proven excellent training which will continue once the exercise commences.”

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