During a Bomber Task Force mission, two U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirits fly alongside four Royal Australian Air Force EA-18G Growlers and a RAAF E-7A Wedgetail on the eastern Australian coast on August 4. Photo by Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Bishline/U.S. Navy | License Photo
Aug. 20 (UPI) — The Royal Australian Air Force is hosting Exercise Pitch Black, a large-scale training engagement with 16 other nations including the United States, Britain and France.
The exercise will include more than 100 fighter jets and thousands of personnel drilling combat scenarios conducted in the day and at night in the sky above Australia’s Northern Territory, using the city of Darwin as a home base, through Sept. 8.
Other countries participating in Exercise Pitch Black include Canada, Germany, Indonesia, India, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates, the Australian Defense Department said in a statement.
“This year, significant efforts have been made to advance the air-to-air refueling capability between many of the participating nations,” Air Commodore Tim Alsop, the commander of the exercise, said in the statement.
“Air-to-air refueling 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 maximize our capability.”
The exercise is traditionally held in Darwin every two years since it began in 1981 but was canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Alsop noted that several countries are participating in Exercise Pitch Black for the first time.
“We welcome them to the exercise and the magnificent Northern Territory,” Alsop said.
The Australia Broadcasting Corporation, the country’s national broadcaster, reported that Su-30s from India and F-15s and F-16s from Singapore will return for the exercise this year while Eurofighter Typhoons from Germany and Britain and Mitsubishi F-2s from Japan are debuting.
In comments to the ABC, Alsop added that Pitch Black is strictly a training exercise and not meant to “oppose” any nation despite growing tensions in the Asian Pacific region.
“It’s not against anyone, but for a lot of nations,” he said.
The RAAF will also hold and day where members of the public can visit the base in Darwin to see the high-tech planes as well as conduct a flyover above the city’s famous Mindil Beach.
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