Page 26 - Australian Defence Magazine Oct 2018
P. 26

Thunder over the Top End Exercise Pitch Black
Exercise Pitch Black 2018, the largest air combat exercise in the southern hemisphere, was held in the Top End between July 27 and August 17.
THE exercise this year was the largest in the biennial Pitch Black series, which first be- gan back in 1981, with around 4,000 people from 16 different countries and more than 130 aircraft from nine nations taking part.
During the Large Force Employment (LFE) stage of the exercise, up to 80 aircraft could be involved in air combat missions within the vast airspace above the Northern Territory. According to Air Commodore Mike Kitcher,
Officer Commanding Exercise, one of the major drawcards of Pitch Black is the amount of airspace available, together with the Dela- mere and Bradshaw ranges within it.
“One of the things that makes Pitch Black for us is the airspace we have available here in the Top End, which extends from just south of Batchelor, to down past Daly River, and from the Stuart Highway out over the ocean,” he told ADM.
“That chunk of airspace is pretty much un- paralleled anywhere in the world, especially when you consider you have two excellent air weapons ranges in the middle of it. The airspace goes from zero to 50,000 feet and there are very few restrictions within it so, given the number of aircraft we have participating in this Pitch Black, that huge chunk of airspace is vital to the conduct of realistic coalition air operations.”
Scenario and goals
The scenario set for Pitch Black 2018 largely followed those of previous years and was divided into a Red Air/Blue Air construct whereby the Blue Force, largely based in Darwin, flew Offensive Counter Air (OCA) missions against the Red Air forces from Tindal, who were operating in the Defensive Counter Air (DCA) role.
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