RSAF tests its mettle in massive training exercise in Australia

RSAF engineers preparing an F-16C/D fighter before operations, as part of Exercise Pitch Black.
RSAF engineers preparing an F-16C/D fighter before operations, as part of Exercise Pitch Black.PHOTO: MINDEF
Mission leader, Captain Janzen Koh (centre), discussing the mission strategy with the leader from the Royal Australian Air Force's flight team during Exercise Pitch Black.
Mission leader, Captain Janzen Koh (centre), discussing the mission strategy with the leader from the Royal Australian Air Force's flight team during Exercise Pitch Black.PHOTO: MINDEF
An RSAF KC-135 Stratotanker conducting refuelling operations for Royal Australian Air Force aircraft during Exercise Pitch Black.
An RSAF KC-135 Stratotanker conducting refuelling operations for Royal Australian Air Force aircraft during Exercise Pitch Black.PHOTO: MINDEF

SINGAPORE - One of Asia-Pacific's largest air force training events, Exercise Pitch Black, is underway in Australia, with the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) participating in the largest operation the exercise has seen since it was established in 1990.

Taking place from July 27 to Aug 17 in the tropical northern city of Darwin, this year's exercise marks the biggest number of participating countries with 16 nations, up to 140 aircraft and up to 4,000 personnel involved.

Exercise director Aldrin Tan told The Straits Times that this is a good opportunity for the RSAF to train with and against different aircraft and weapon systems.

"This exercise allows us to become more adaptable in the long run," he said.

"If we pit ourselves against other nations, it keeps us on our toes and keeps us sharp. We will be able to see our effectiveness."

Colonel Tan, 40, added: "The large-scale realistic air combat training, conducted under day and night operational scenarios, hones our people's skills and competencies.

"We are grateful to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) for such overseas training opportunities as it allows us to overcome our local airspace constraints."

The RSAF has deployed about 330 personnel this year, which include operationally ready national servicemen (NSmen), full-time national servicemen (NSFs) as well as RSAF regulars, while its planes involved include five F-15s, six F-16 fighter aircraft, a G-550 early warning aircraft and a KC-135, which can refuel military aircraft in mid-air.

The air forces involved in the biennial exercise are from the United States, Canada, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Singapore, Sweden, Thailand, New Zealand and Australia.

Training in Darwin involves aerial assets from participating nations conducting air-to-air combat, air-to-ground and ground-to-air attacks against simulated threats in a challenging and realistic training environment under both day and night conditions.

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