Exercise Pitch Black: Several firsts for IAF in Australian skies

The IAF contingent consisted of 145 air-warriors including IAF Commandos team, Garuds, 04 X Su-30 MKI, 01 X C-130 and 01 X C-17 for logistic support for induction and de-induction.

Exercise Pitch Black: Several firsts for IAF in Australian skies

For the first time ever, the Indian Air Force participated with fighter aircraft in Exercise Pitch Black which concluded on August 18 in Darwin in Australia. The exercise was aimed at giving a unique opportunity for exchange of knowledge and experience with the participating nations in a dynamic warfare environment. During the exercise which began from 24 July and concluded on 18 August, the IAF contingent interacted with various countries, gained first-hand experience of training patterns, employment and operating philosophies of their combat assets.

The professionalism and work ethos of IAF pilots, technicians, Airmen and all participating Air-Warriors earned immense praise from all quarters during the exercise.

Over the last decade, the IAF has been actively participating in operational exercises hosted by various countries, wherein collaborative engagements have been undertaken with the best air forces in the world. The operational lessons learnt by IAF during the exercise will help in assisting the force in adding more teeth to its overall war waging capabilities and assist us in better joint man ship with the friendly nations. 

Here are the highlights of the 25-day Exercise Pitch Black: 

1. Exercise Pitch Black was a biennial multi-national large force employment warfare exercise which was hosted by Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). With the participation of 16 nations and more than 140 aircraft, the current edition was the largest Pitch Black ever conducted by Australia. 

2. The contingent of the IAF consisted of 145 air-warriors including IAF Commandos team, Garuds, 04 X Su-30 MKI, 01 X C-130 and 01 X C-17 for logistic support for induction and de-induction. The contingent assembled at Air Force Station Kalaikunda and departed for the exercise on 19 July from India to Australia via Indonesia. The contingent was led by Group Captain CUV Rao.

3. The objectives for the exercise were to foster closer relations between the participating friendly forces and to promote interoperability through exchange of knowledge and experience. 

4. The aim for participating crew and specialist observers was to expose them to op environment in international scenarios. 

5. The exercise comprised of 2 phases, first being the Force Integration week. During the Force Integration week, the forces flew basic missions with an aim to get to the same working platform. The missions later involved larger packages and simulated air combat exercises were undertaken in near realistic environment.

6. Various day and night operations were undertaken by the IAF and for the first time. 

7. SU-30MKI carried out Air to Air Refueling with KC-30A of RAAF. The KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport is a modified Airbus A330 airliner that is used by RAAF to conduct air-to-air refueling and provide strategic airlift. 

8. Exchange sorties were flown by IAF pilots flying in Rafale and RAAF F/A-18 (Hornets); and RAAF crew and French Crew flying in SU-30MKI. 

9. IAF C-130J crew got a unique opportunity to fly in RAAF C130J aircraft. C-130J also carried out assault landing at Dalmare, Assault Operations of dropping specialist vehicles in Op area and participation in Large Force Engagement missions, both by day and night.

10. Maiden operations were also undertaken by the IAF during the exercise. These included IAF Commandos, Garuds and Para Jump Instructors jumping from C-27J Spartan in a foreign country, Container Delivery System (CDS) drop by C-130 J, Engine Running Ops (ERO) for dropping Ops Specialist Vehicles in Combat Zone. During the exercise, IAF maintenance crew ensured 100 percent serviceability of all the assets, thus ensuring complete participation of the forces in the exercise.

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