Exercise Pitch Black is a biennial warfare exercise hosted by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). The exercise is normally held in Northern Australia, primarily at RAAF Bases Darwin and Tindal. The aim of the exercise is to practice Offensive Counter Air (OCA) and Defensive Counter Air (DCA) combat, in a simulated war environment. It traditionally consists of a 'red team' and a 'blue team' based at separate locations, with one attacking the other.


The first Pitch Black exercises took place on 15–16 June 1981 between different RAAF units.[1]

The exercise began in 1990 starting with training between Australia and Singapore, and it then expanded to other international air forces with defence ties to Australia being invited, which have come to consist of France's Armée de l'Air; the Royal Malaysian Air Force, the Republic of Singapore Air Force; the Royal Thai Air Force; the Royal New Zealand Air Force; the United States Air Force; and Britain's Royal Air Force. Countries unable to participate are able to send observers.[citation needed]

Although the 2000, 2004 and 2006 exercises were held in the Northern Territory, the 2002 exercise was scaled down and held at RAAF Bases Amberley and Williamtown, on the Australian east coast. RAAF Base Glenbrook (near Sydney) is used as the command and control centre, as it would if the simulated conflict were real.[citation needed]


The 2006 exercise was from 31 July to 8 August. Participants included Singapore, Thailand, the UK, US and Australia.[2] RAAF Base Curtin (a bare base) was stood up to join Darwin as a second Offensive Counter Air base. RAAF General Dynamics F-111s were the only aircraft based there.


The 2008 exercise was from 6 June to 27 June. Around 3000 personnel and 60 aircraft participated. Participants were Singapore (RSAF) France (French Air Force), Australia (Royal Australian Air Force), Malaysia (Royal Malaysian Air Force), Thailand (Royal Thai Air Force), the US (United States Air Force, (United States Marine Corps and United States Navy) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.[3]


The 2010 exercise ran from 16 July to 6 August. New Zealand, Singapore and Thailand participated.[4] This was the last year the RAAF's F-111 aircraft participated, and they were retired at the end of the year.


The 2012 exercise ran from 27 July to 17 August. More than 2,200 personnel along with 100 aircraft belonging to Australia, Singapore, Thailand, the US, Indonesia and New Zealand participated in the exercise. It was the first time for Indonesia to participate in the exercise. The Indonesian Air Force sent four Sukhoi Flanker fighters,[5] two Su-27s and two Su-30s.[6]


The 2014 exercise ran from 4 August to 22 August 2014.[7] Up to 110 aircraft from Australia, the US, New Zealand, Thailand, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates participated.[8]


The 2016 exercise ran from 29 July to 19 August. Up to 115 aircraft and 2,500 personnel from the armed forces of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Indonesia, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand and the US participated.[9]


The 2018 exercise ran from 27 July to 17 August. Participating countries included Australia, Canada, France (New Caledonia), Germany, Indonesia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and the United States.[10] The Indian Air Force took part in the exercise for the first time.[11][12] 131 aircraft were involved and almost 4,000 personnel.


  1. ^ Pitch Black 2016, Part 1 photo recon.net Retrieved 4 November 2016.
  2. ^ "Singapore Participates in Exercise Pitch Black 2006". MINDEF Singapore. 1 August 2006. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  3. ^ "Singapore Participates in Ex Pitch Black". MINDEF Singapore. 25 June 2008. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  4. ^ RSAF Participates in Multilateral Air Combat Exercise in Darwin 24 July 2010 mindef.gov.sg Retrieved 5 October 2016
  5. ^ Exercise Pitch Black 2012 concludes 20 August 2012 airforce-technology.com Retrieved 5 October 2016
  6. ^ Indonesian Flankers touch down in Darwin Australian Aviation Retrieved 4 December 2016
  7. ^ PACAF supports Pitch Black 2014 in Australia 31 July 2014 Pacific Air Forces Retrieved 5 October 2015
  8. ^ Air Force exercise Pitch Black takes off over Darwin and Katherine, residents brace for noise 2 August 2014 ABC Retrieved 5 October 2016
  9. ^ Pitch Black 2016 begins 1 August 2016 Australian Aviation Retrieved 5 October 2016
  10. ^ "Exercise Pitch Black". Royal Australian Airforce. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  11. ^ IndraStra Global (15 August 2018), Exercise Pitch Black 2018 — RAAF-IAF Co-Fly, retrieved 21 November 2018
  12. ^ "IAF PARTICIPATION IN EX PITCH BLACK 2018". Indian Air Force. Retrieved 3 September 2018.