Page 30 - Australian Defence Magazine Oct 2018
P. 30

“Several aircraft were
making their debut at a Pitch Black Exercise this year.”
LEFT: Air to air refuelling with the MRTT and Hornet fleets.
BELOW: The Indian Air Force was out in force at
EX Pitch Black.
New capabilities
Several aircraft were making their debut at a Pitch Black Exercise this year, including Dassault Rafale fighters from the French Air Force and the Bell Boeing MV-22B Os- prey from the US Marine Corps’ Marine Rotational Force – Darwin (MRF-D), the latter also marking the first time the MRF- D deployment has been integrated into a Pitch Black exercise.
From a local perspective, the RAAF’s EA-18G Growler airborne electronic attack aircraft and C-27J Spartan battlefield air- lifter were also debutantes. The RAAF is still working up the Growler capability, but Offi- cer Commanding 82 Wing, Group Captain Rob Denney told ADM that Pitch Black was an important step in the journey towards
Initial Operational Capability (IOC).
“By bringing the aircraft on Pitch Black, we have a really good opportunity to exer- cise our deployed operations. It allows us to integrate with a large force and assist them by denying or degrading parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, so they achieve their tactical objectives,” he explained. “It also allows us to integrate with a lot of in- ternational partners, which is something we can’t do in a normal exercise environment, and work with them to achieve their goals.”
Air-Land integration
Continuing a theme from previous Pitch Black exer- cises, the Air-Land integra- tion dimension was a major facet of Pitch Black 2018. This year it included not only the debut of the Spar- tan in the intra-theatre air-
lift role, but the establishment of an austere air base at Batchelor. The latter provided a major test of the C-27J’s ability to deploy to remote locations and sustain operations for an extended period and also offered the op- portunity for 35 Sqn to conduct a number of training events for its crews.
After the airfield at Batchelor was seized from an ‘enemy’ force and secured, an expe- ditionary air base, which included operations and refuelling facilities and the deployment of a Role 2 Field Hospital, was established.
Once established, two Spartans were based there for the remainder of the exercise.
“Sometimes the exercise directors will build our daily training requirements into the exercise scenario,” 35 Sqn Pitch Black Detachment Commander, Squadron Leader Mark Seery, told ADM. “Our primary roles during the exercise are air-land or air-drop in a threat environment. If there’s a scenario that requires a resupply and air-drop, then we will include that in the scenario as well.
“The major training benefit for us is the experience of deconflicting or integrating with other air assets – whether it is fight- ers, other airlift assets such as a C-130, or Osprey or (the French Air Force) CN235 – working out a plan where we all need to effect something and how we will do that in a deconflicted manner and integrating that whole piece into the air environment. There are a lot of moving parts.”
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