Page 28 - Australian Defence Magazine Oct 2018
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“Pitch Black is a 16-nation coalition and we conduct the exercise at the unclassified level, but the training that we get is second to none.”
New players
Nine nations deployed aircraft to the Top End for the exercise this year, including Australia, Canada, France, Indonesia, Ma- laysia, Singapore, Thailand and the US. In addition, participating with aircraft for the very first time was the Indian Air Force, which deployed four Sukhoi Su- 30MKI3 fighters and a single C-130J-30 Hercules to Darwin.
The Indian Air Force was present dur- ing Pitch Black 2016 as an observer, but this year deployed with both aircraft and ground forces. For Pitch Black 2018 the spearhead of the IAF contingent were four Sukhoi Su-30MKI3 fighters from 102 Squadron ‘Trisonics’, based at Chabua Air Force Station in Assam, however crews came from several Sukhoi units to maximise the training value. The Sukhois were largely dedicated to Blue Air and predominantly flew air to air mis- sions, but also flew air to ground missions using simulated weapons.
“Exercise Pitch Black is a great exposure for our aircrew, wherein we get to participate and fly with the various friendly air forces and also get an exposure to flying with vari-
ous platforms which are not available in our part of the world,” explained Group Captain R.S. Sodhi, IAF Exercise Co-ordinator, dur- ing week two of the exercise.
“So, coming here to a huge and beautiful air- space where you can fly with very minimal flying restrictions is a very great exposure for our crews. We
are using the full air to air capability of the Su-30’s radar, everything is being used (and) primarily we would like to get to fly with all these platforms which are avail- able here – and they are in plenty – from various countries which we do not get to fly with in our area of responsibility.
“Other than that, the huge airspace and
the night conditions that you get out here, the name of the exercise sums it all up, it’s pitch black here (and) these conditions are what we would like to train in.”
The single C-130J Hercules from 87 Sqn at Panagarh in West Bengal provided special operations support to a unit of the IAF’s Garud Commando Force, who per- formed military free-fall jumps into the training area and other missions.
“We are performing special operations support for the Garuds as well as all the team members allocated to us during the exercise, so we are the tactical airlift for the LFE,” explained C-130J pilot, Wing Commander Ravi Nanda. “It may include troops as well as insertions of support, in terms of vehicles or something like that, from all the nations that are assigned to us as part of the Blue Force.”
ABOVE: Fast jet operations at night.
LEFT: EX Pitch Black allowed for a range of training opportunities including logistics drops.
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