RSAF takes to the skies with 16 other air forces in Australia for Exercise Pitch Black

RSAF fighter jets flying in formation alongside aircraft from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (top) and Royal Australian Air Force (bottom) during Exercise Pitch Black. PHOTO: MINDEF
RSAF F-15 fighters preparing to take part in Exercise Pitch Black in Darwin, Australia. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
An RSAF F-16 taking off during their night sortie during Exercise Pitch Black on Aug 30, 2022. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
An RSAF F-16 taking part in Exercise Pitch Black in Darwin, Australia. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
An RSAF fighter jet (right) flying alongside the United States Marine Corps' F-35B. PHOTO: MINDEF

DARWIN - The skills of more than 400 Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) airmen are being put to the test in a large-scale, multinational air combat exercise in northern Australia.

Exercise Pitch Black, held from Aug 19 to Sept 8 in Darwin, features the greatest number of participating countries - 17 - since its inception in 1981, with about 2,500 people and 100 aircraft involved.

RSAF exercise director Mark Tan said in a media brief that 18 Singapore planes are being deployed, including the A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport that will make its debut in the biennial exercise.

The other RSAF aircraft consist of F-15SG and F-16D+ fighter jets, numbering eight each, and a Gulfstream 550 airborne early warning aircraft.

The total number of personnel and aircraft means Singapore has one of the largest representations at the exercise, said Colonel Tan, 44, who described it as "essential for sharpening our operational competencies".

He added: "This exercise provides the RSAF with an excellent opportunity to conduct large-scale realistic air combat training in both day and night conditions.

"It allows us to share best practices with our foreign counterparts and lets us benchmark our capabilities with established air forces."

The airmen, who comprise operationally ready national servicemen, full-time national servicemen and RSAF regulars from different squadrons, were put through their paces to ensure they were ready.

These included overseas deployments, physical training, live flights at the South China Sea training airspace and simulator training to replicate missions they would undergo in Australia.

Col Tan noted that it is the first time the F-35 Joint Strike Fighters are being deployed by the Royal Australian Air Force and United States Marine Corps, which provides his airmen with a better understanding of their capabilities, before the eventual delivery of four F-35B fighter jets in 2026.

Singapore has been part of the exercise since 1990, with this year's iteration marking the 18th time that the RSAF has participated.

The air forces involved this time round are from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, Britain and the US.

The exercise is seen by countries as a chance to learn from one another and improve their force integration using one of the largest training airspace areas in the world.

An RSAF ground crew member on the flight line at Royal Australian Air Force's Base Darwin during Exercise Pitch Black. PHOTO: MINDEF

During the duration of the exercise, aerial assets from the participating nations conduct a variety of missions as they engage in air combat against simulated threats found in modern battlefields.

The missions will be conducted during the day and night and incorporate offensive and defensive elements.

It is that realistic training that F-15SG pilot Arumugam Sivaraj, 36 - who also took part in the exercise in 2012 and 2014 - relishes the most.

F-15SG pilot Arumugam Sivaraj said the realistic training is what he relished the most. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

"Compared to the previous times I participated, the number of nations taking part this year has increased significantly, and the types of aircraft used have varied over time.

"This year is the first time a fifth-generation fighter jet is being introduced in the exercise, with different capabilities and limitations," said Major Sivaraj.

He added: "The type of integration has changed over the years, which brings about different challenges and takeaways."

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