|Squadron Leader Ranjith from the Indian Air Force monitors the start-up on a pair of SU-30MKI Flankers for a mission during Exercise Pitch Black 18. (File Photo)
New Delhi: India will be part of a mega air combat exercise in Australia this month that is set to witness the participation of around 100 aircraft and 2,500 military personnel from 17 countries. India’s participation in the exercise, “Pitch Black”, has been confirmed by the Australian government.
The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) considers “Pitch Black” as its “capstone” international engagement activity with the air forces of strategic partners and allies.
The exercise is scheduled to take place from August 19 to September 6.
An Australian readout said about 100 aircraft and 2,500 military personnel from 17 countries will arrive in the Northern Territory in the country in two weeks to commence Pitch Black 2022 (PBK22).
With a four-year hiatus since the last edition of Pitch Black due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s exercise will see a return of the combined force to Australian skies, enhancing interoperability and strengthening relationships, it said.
PBK22 Director Engagement Group Captain Peter Wood said he is pleased to see the return of Pitch Black after the extended break.
“International participation in Exercise Pitch Black, from within the Indo-Pacific region and further abroad, provides all nations’ personnel with experience in working with aircraft, systems and work practices, in northern Australia’s unique environment, that would otherwise be unfamiliar,” Group Captain Wood said.
“Exercising with our international partners in combined air combat operations is pivotal to ensuring Air Force remains ready to respond whenever the Australian government requires,” he added.
The readout said this year’s participants include Australia, Canada, India, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand, the UAE, the UK and the US.
“We are very much looking forward to working with our international partners once again for Exercise Pitch Black,” Group Captain Wood said.
The defence and security ties between India and Australia have been on an upswing in the last few years.
In June 2020, the two countries elevated their ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership and signed a landmark deal for reciprocal access to military bases for logistics support.
The Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) allows the militaries of the two countries to use each other’s bases for repair and replenishment of supplies, besides facilitating scaling up of overall defence cooperation.
The Australian Navy was part of the Malabar naval exercise hosted by India in November 2020 as well as last year.