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The Indian Air Force is participating in Exercise Pitch Black, the RAAF’s premier air combat exercise, with aircraft for the very first time.
Pitch Black is taking place between July 27 and August 17 and up to 140 aircraft are participating in multi-national training missions over the NT.
The Indian Air Force was present during Pitch Black 2016 as an observer, but this year decided to attend with both aircraft and ground forces. For PB18 the spearhead of the IAF contingent is a force of four Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighters from 102 Squadron ‘Trisonics’, based at Chabua Air Force Station in Assam. A single C-130J-30 Hercules from 87 Sqn at Panagarh in West Bengal is also part of the IAF contingent and is providing special operations support to a unit of the IAF’s Garud Commando Force, operating on the ground.
The contingent deployed to Indonesia with support from the IAF’s Ilyushin Il-78MKI tankers and further self-deployed to Darwin, where the aircraft are based for the duration of the exercise. As ADM revealed in July, one of the goals of the exercise for the Sukhois of 102 Sqn is to qualify with the RAAF’s Airbus KC-30A multi role tanker transport (MRTT).
Initial trials began on July 30, the opening day of the exercise and, subject to a formal clearance being approved, the KC-30A will support the Sukhois as far as RMAF Butterworth on their way home. The RMAF itself has deployed five F/A-18D Hornets to PB18 and they are also being cleared to receive fuel from the KC-30A.
Commanding Officer of 102 Squadron, Group Captain Prem Anand, callsign ‘Andy’, told ADM that interoperability is one of the major goals for his unit from PB18.
“The missions we are flying here are mostly air to air and air to ground missions. We are part of a large multi-national force package and we perform whatever roles we are allocated,” he said.
“We are exercising with one another and we’re certainly improving. The main object of the exercise for us is to improve our capability and learn from each other. It is important to get to know each other’s best practices and to improve our relations, and that is only going to get better during Pitch Black.
“We are not using the aircraft’s full capabilities in this exercise, because it is an unclassified exercise and we want to leave it at an unclassified level. The roles we are performing do not need large suites of equipment. The aircraft can perform the 1v1 and 2v2 within visual range combat without using other stuff. We have all that we need in the aircraft and are using all of them.
“We will take away a lot from this exercise, the experience gained from coming down here to Darwin, so far away from our home base. There are going to be good practices that we will see and learn. It’s too early to say exactly what we will get out of Pitch Black (but) hopefully it will be a lot.”
A further report from Exercise Pitch Black 2018 will appear in ADM’s Defence Week newsletter next week and an in-depth report will be published in the October issue of the magazine.