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Pitch Black 2004 : Australian RAAF's Largest Air Combat Exercise

Pitch Black 2004 : Australian RAAF's Largest Air Combat Exercise

Exercise Pitch Black is the Royal Australian Air Force's largest exercise. It provides participants with high complexity Air Combat training opportunities. Pitch Black exercises are held biennially. Pitch Black 2004 will be conducted in the Top End between 19 July and 5 August 2004. Source: Australian Department of Defence (Royal Australian Air Force RAAF Public Affairs). Canberra, July 12, 2004.

The Australian  F/A-18 Hornet (RAAF Photo).

The Australian  F/A-18 Hornet (RAAF Photo)

Exercise Pitch Black is Australia's largest Air Combat exercise and is held approximately every two years. Exercise Pitch Black provides exercise participants high complexity Air Combat training and allows Australian and its international friends to train together.

WGCDR Doug Phelan greets Republic of Singapore Air Force pilot MAJ Vincent Leong as he touches down at RAAF Darwin for the commencement of Exercise Pitch Black 2004 (RAAF Photo).

WGCDR Doug Phelan greets Republic of Singapore Air Force pilot MAJ Vincent Leong as he touches down at RAAF Darwin for the commencement of Exercise Pitch Black 2004 (RAAF Photo).

The way this is done is to divide the forces into 'enemy' and 'friendly' teams. The aim for the 'enemy' is to launch simulated attacks on targets, and escape unharmed. For the 'friendly' team their job is to identify the 'enemy' and to do everything they can to 'kill' them, or even just stop them from entering the target areas.

Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) F16 Falcon aircrafts taxi after landing at RAAF Base Darwin in preparation for Exercise Pitch Black 2004. RAAF Photo. Darwin, July 12, 2004.

Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) F16 Falcon aircrafts taxi after landing at RAAF Base Darwin in preparation for Exercise Pitch Black 2004.

At the same time Air Defence Officers perfect their skills in feeding information to fighter pilots from a picture of the entire battlespace, taken from ground-based and airborne radars and sensors.

The 'enemy' forces will also face a threat from below in the form of Ground-Based Air Defence missiles, from the Army, which will be deployed around some of the designated targets.

 The French Mirage 2000 Multi-role fighter

The French Mirage 2000-5 Multi-role fighter

Participating nations identify the Pitch Black Exercise as an opportunity to demonstrate their capacity to participate and contribute in a multi-national defence exercise, across cultures and across regions. Participating personnel see the Exercise as an opportunity for goodwill and cooperation, whilst at the same time demonstrating their capacity to operate effectively in an international environment.

Exercise Pitch Black is expected to inject approximately $7 million (AUSD) into the Top End. Exercise Pitch Black 2004 will allow the men and women of the Royal Australian Air Force to train together with Air Force representatives from Thailand, France, and Singapore.

There will be approximately 1000 additional personnel deployed to RAAF Base Darwin and a further 700 personnel deployed to RAAF Base Tindal.

Approximately 75 aircraft will participate in Exercise Pitch Black 2004.

Aircraft participating in the exercise will be based at both RAAF Base Tindal, near Katherine, and RAAF Base Darwin in the Northern Territory, Australia. Exercise flying is planned to take place either over the ocean or in the airspace south west of Katherine and Delamere.

RAAF Base Darwin will host aircraft and personnel from the Royal Australian Air Force, the Singaporean Air Force the French Air Force and the Royal Thai Air Force. RAAF Base Tindal will be home to aircraft from the Royal Australian Air Force.

Royal Australian Air Force Air Defence ground based radars will be deployed to the Northern Territory region to provide the 'big picture' for air surveillance and fighter control. Surface-to-air missile batteries from the Army's 16th Air Defence Regiment and the Republic of Singapore Air Force will be situated around the Tindal area and will form Exercise Pitch Black's ground based air defence.

About 120 personnel at RAAF Base Glenbrook in Sydney will coordinate the tasking for aircraft involved in Pitch Black by forming a Combined Air Operations Centre, responsible for coordinating all of the elements involved in an air war.

- Participating personnel include:

  • Australian personnel drawn from Bases across Australia representing Air Combat Group, Surveillance and Response Group, Combat Support Group, Air Lift Group and the Australian Army.

  • About 190 Republic of Singapore Air Force personnel at RAAF Darwin.

  • Approximately 120 Royal Thai Air Force personnel at RAAF Darwin, and

  • About 80 French Air Force personnel, also at RAAF Darwin.

The exercise is scheduled to officially open on Sunday 18 July 2004.

As the Joint Force Air Component Commander, Air Commodore John Quaife is responsible for the overall command and control of the exercise. About 120 personnel at the Combined Air Operations Centre at RAAF Base Glenbrook in Sydney will conduct Pitch Black 2004 operations.

Group Captain Richard Owen and his staff will coordinate exercise activities through an Exercise Control office. Exercise Control will be located at RAAF Base Darwin.

Participating Planes include:

Media Note:

Media wishing to attend RAAF Base Darwin to film/shoot arrivals will need to provide names of staff attending to the Royal Australian Air Force toll free number 1800 301 885 and will be escorted while on base. Alternatively, media can have access to defence vision and stills on www.defence.gov.au/pitchblack

Media contacts:

  • Air Force Public Affairs Darwin, 1800 301 885 (toll free)

  • Olivier Bove, Media Adviser - French Embassy, (02) 6216 0100 - 0403 606 682

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).

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