08 Aug 2018

Exercise Pitch Black 18 boosts Indian and Australian cooperation

Pilots from the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and Indian Air Force (IAF) have taken to their fast jets to fly together for the first time over Australian soil as part of Exercise Pitch Black 18.

For the 18th Exercise Pitch Black, a basic fighter manoeuvre mission has be planned and executed as a dual-nation effort, during which the crews will put their piloting skills to the test via a series of simulated dogfights.

No. 77 Squadron pilot Flight Lieutenant Vincent was one of the first RAAF pilots to go toe-to-toe with the IAF’s highly manoeuvrable multi-role Sukhoi Su-30. “It’s the first time I’ve ever flown against a Sukhoi and I’ve got to say it’s a pretty impressive aircraft,” said Vincent. “For me it was definitely an incredibly valuable learning experience and it’s certainly a great memory I’ll take away from the exercise.”

In the run up to Exercise Pitch Black, IAF Wing Commander Ajit Krishnan thoroughly researched the RAAF’s F/A-18 to ready himself for the real thing. “I saw a lot of pictures of the F/A-18A before coming to Australia, but to see it here in person both in the air and on the ground, it is a beautiful thing,” said Krishnan. “It was a wonderful experience to fly in formation with the RAAF jets over the Australian coastline and I feel very blessed to have been given the opportunity.”

According to Vincent, the exercise has highlighted the similarities between both countries, though there is much they can learn from each other: “We discovered through the planning phase that we both share very similar procedures and processes for planning and executing our missions.

“Of course there’s always a language or terminology barrier when working with new countries. But working together to overcome those barriers and build a great base of understanding is what exercises like Pitch Black are all about.”

The IAF has visited Exercise Pitch Black as part of the International Observer Group since 1998 but this is the first time they have bought aircraft over to participate. The exercise takes part in the Northern Territory and involves personnel from 16 separate nations. The aim is to strengthen regional partnerships, improve interoperability between nations and promote regional stability.

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