Pitch Black is a biennial, three week, multinational, large-force training exercise hosted by RAAF Tindal. The allied nation squadrons execute day and night flights from Tindal to Darwin, while performing large-force offensive counter-air and defensive counter-air support operations throughout the exercise. The offensive counter-air technique is used to suppress enemy air power by destroying or disabling grounded aircraft and facilities, while defensive counter-air detects, intercepts and destroys enemy threats to a friendly airspace.
The first principle of Australian Defence training doctrine is that our forces should train as they operate (Australian Defence Force Warfare Centre, 2006). For air warfare command and control teams, however, the opportunity to take part in training that faithfully replicates operational environments is rare, largely restricted to participation in exercises such as Pitch Black and Talisman Sabre. The scarcity of these valuable training opportunities has generated considerable interest in the use of synthetic environments as a means of supplementing or augmenting live training.
Pitch Black 08 was comprised of a series of mission scenarios (or vignettes) which, over the course of the exercise, portrayed an escalation in tension between the opposing Blue and Red forces and a progression of military action. The vignettes varied in terms of training objectives, order of battle, rules of engagement, airspace, threats, and targets; they did not differ in terms of difficulty or complexity. Broadly speaking, the Blue Force participants were required to conduct a variety of missions such as offensive counter air (OCA), offensive air support (OAS), deep strike, destruction of enemy air defences, and joint personnel recovery; the Red Force participants responded by employing defensive counter air (DCA) tactics. The 41WG ABM Teams worked in shifts to provide tactical command and control support to the Red Force.
Dissimilar basic fighter maneuvers, or “dogfighting”, are strategic movements executed by different aircraft while performing air combat maneuvers in order to gain an advantage over the opponent. As the training progresses, the U.S. pilots also got the opportunity to engage in offensive counter-air and defensive counter-air maneuvers with Canada, France, Germany, Indonesia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore and Thailand. Australia maintains a strong relationship between the participating nations and identifies the importance of regional security among the allied nations.
Whether it be a VMFA-122 F/A18C or Singapore’s F-16C/D, each nation involved in Pitch Black brings a unique capability affording the associated countries the opportunity to learn and understand each partner’s skills, preparing for real world situations and further strengthening the bonds of friendship.
Among the approximately 2,500 personnel and approximately 115 aircraft participating in Pitch Black, are members of Marine Wing Support Squadron 171, Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 12 and Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 deployed from MCAS Iwakuni to support the flight operations of VMFA-122.
Exercise Pitch Black 2016 (PB16) in Australia allowed participant nations to exercise deployed units in the tasking, planning and execution of offensive counter air and offensive air support while utilizing one of the largest training airspace areas in the world.
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