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04:48 PM, August 2, 2018
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Air Exercise Pitch Black takes off in Darwin, Australia
Indian Su-30MKI aircraft takes off during Exercise Pitch Black, Australia

Exercise Pitch Black 18 kicked off in Darwin, Australia on Monday with more than 60 aircraft from eight nations taking to the skies in under 90 minutes. 

Aircraft from Australia, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, France and the United States took off for the first week of the exercise, known to participants as Force Integration Training (FIT) week.

The Indian Air Force's Su-30MKI is the only Russian-origin aircraft among a plethora of F-16s and F/A-18s that dominate the Darwin sky. The IAF aircraft flew from India to Australia stopping over in Indonesia before joining the international exercise.

Commander Task Unit Headquarters for Exercise Pitch Black, Group Captain (GPCAPT) Rob Denney said in a statement, FIT week is designed to prepare RAAF and international aircrew to operate safely as an integrated force throughout the exercise.

For this first week of familiarisation participating nations will conduct a range of missions including ‘dogfighting’, air-to-air refuelling, beyond-visual-range engagements, and even high-explosive missions utilising the Delamere Weapons Range where aircrew will have the chance to practice coordinating live-fires with a multinational Combat Controller force on the ground.

“A typical mission will differ depending on the aircraft type but for the fighter aircraft it would include coordinating with air traffic control, getting out into the airspace, conducting some air-to-air-refuelling, and then carrying out some basic fighter manoeuvring missions,” GPCAPT Denney said.

“This week prepares everyone for the last two weeks of the exercise where we’ll see the launch of large packages of up to 50 and even 60 aircraft flying together.”

GPCAPT Denney said the airspace in Darwin is potentially the biggest to exercise in anywhere the world offering a unique draw card for Exercise Pitch Black. 

Being less densely populated than most other airspaces in the world, access to the Darwin airspace allows participating nations to operate their aircraft without many of the usual constraints they would otherwise have.

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