RAAF_KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport

The Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) biennial air combat training exercise, Pitch Black 2012, has concluded following three weeks of offensive counter air and air support operations, in Northern Australia.

More than 2,200 personnel along with 100 aircraft belonging to Australia, Singapore, Thailand, the US, Indonesia and New Zealand participated in the exercise.

During the exercise, RAAF’s latest Airbus KC-30A multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) aircraft was debuted. The aircraft conducted airborne refuelling of the Boeing-built F/A-18 Hornet fighter, using its hose-and-drogue wing-mounted pods.

A total of nine Super Hornets, belonging to the RAAF’s No. 1 Squadron, were also introduced to perform operations alongside the air force’s other aircraft, including the Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C), C-17 and C-130, during the drill.

The exercise also saw first-time participation of the Indonesian Air Force’s (TNI-AU) Sukhoi SU 27 and SU 30 Flanker aircraft, Singapore’s Boeing-built F15 Strike Eagles and G550 Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft.

Mel Hupfeld, Air Commander Australia air vice-marshall, said all involved gained valuable experience from participating in a high tempo, multi-national air operations environment.

"This is vitally important for all of our aircrew, maintainers and support staff," Hupfeld added.

As part of an ongoing Defence arrangement between Australia and Singapore, the Republic of Singapore Air Force will continue to remain at RAAF Bases Darwin and Tindal to perform independent air combat activities for an additional two weeks in order to achieve additional training objectives.

Pitch Black 2013 is scheduled to be conducted again in 2014.

Image: RAAF’s KC-30A multi-role tanker transport at RAAF Base Townsville. Photo: courtesy of LACW Jessica de Rouw.