Four Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter jets and two C-17 heavy-lift aircraft of the Indian Air Force on Friday joined a 17-nation air combat exercise in Australia.
The three-week ‘Pitch Black’ exercise, being hosted by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), is taking place amid the conflict in Ukraine and China’s military muscle-flexing in the Taiwan Strait following US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei.
Over 100 aircraft and 2,500 personnel from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Indonesia, India, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Republic of Korea, the UAE, Singapore, Thailand, the US and the UK are participating in the exercise in Australia’s Northern Territory.
The RAAF considers the biennial exercise as its “capstone” international engagement activity with the air forces from strategic partners and allies.
“An Indian Air Force contingent has reached Australia for participating in exercise Pitch Black 2022 scheduled to be held from August 19 to September 8 in Darwin,” the Indian Air Force (IAF) said.
“The IAF contingent, led by Group Captain YPS Negi, comprises over 100 air warriors, deployed with four Su-30 MKI fighter and two C-17 aircraft,” the IAF said in a statement.
It said they will undertake multi-domain air combat missions in a complex environment and exchange best practices with the participating air forces.
The last ‘Pitch Black’ was conducted in 2018. The 2020 edition of the exercise was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Exercise commander Air Commodore Tim Alsop said the return of Pitch Black marked an excellent opportunity to strengthen partnerships and promote regional stability.
The RAAF said the exercise recognises Australia’s strong relationships and the high value it placed on regional security and fostering close ties throughout the Indo-Pacific region.
“Pitch Black is a large force employment exercise, driven by fighter combat scenarios. This year, significant efforts have been made to advance the air-to-air refuelling capability between many of the participating nations,” Alsop was quoted in a RAAF release.
“Air-to-air refuelling is a force multiplier, providing essential reach to our combat aircraft. Working with many of the participating nations aims to increase our force projection and maximise our capability,” he added.
The RAAF said the exercise will include day and night flying and will be undertaken with consideration given to minimising the impact on the local community and the environment.