Operation “Pitch Black” – Indian Sukhoi and C17 Globemaster land in Australia

Aerial prowess has always been a major differentiator when it comes to establishing air supremacy. In what can be termed a show of strength in foreign skies, four Indian Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jets and two C-17 Globemaster-III strategic airlifter have touched down in Australia for the major ‘Pitch Black’ air combat exercise.

What is a “Pitch Black” air combat mission?

Exercise Pitch Black 2022 is the Royal Australian Air Force’s most significant International Engagement activity with allied nations and other partners participating, developing and enhancing military relationships at all levels.

This year, the RAAF Base Amberley, located near Ipswich will also be included and will witness the participation of around 100 aircraft and 2,500 military personnel from 17 nations- including France, Germany, Indonesia, India, Singapore, Japan, Republic of Korea, UK, the Philippines, Thailand, UAE, Canada, Netherlands, Malaysia, New Zealand and the US.

A JAS-39 Gripen from the Royal Thai Air Force prepares to taxi out of the shelters for another mission during Exercise Pitch Black 2018 at RAAF Base Darwin | defence.gov.au

It is also to be noted that Germany, Japan, and the Republic of Korea will be participating fully for the first time.

It is a biennial three-week multi-national large force employment exercise conducted primarily from RAAF Base Darwin and RAAF Base Tindal.

The mission features a range of realistic, simulated threats similar to a modern battle-space environment. It will include day and night flying involving up to approximately 100 participating aircraft. There will not be any overarching scenario for the exercise. Each mission will be executed as a stand-alone serial with distinct training objectives.

The exercise which has already commenced is slated to go on until 8 September 2022.

India’s participation in the exercise

The IAF contingent, led by Group Captain YPS Negi, will undertake multi-domain air combat missions in a complex environment and will exchange best practices with the participating air forces

an officer said

The IAF last participated in the Pitch Black exercise two years back in 2018 and since then has bolstered military ties between the two countries.

Indian Air Force SU-30 Flanker aircraft conduct air-to-air refuelling from a Royal Australian Air Force No. 33 Squadron KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport during Exercise Pitch Black 2018 | defence.gov.au

Conversely, Australia has also become a regular participant in India’s Malabar naval exercise with the US and Japan. This time around, the exercise has a special significance with China’s recent activities concerning Taiwan and the “Quad” countries pledging their intent to deter any “coercion” in the Indo-Pacific region.


Cover: defence.gov.au