Eye on China, Australia's 'Pitch Black' Exercise to be Biggest Ever in 43 Years

On Monday, Australia hosted Chinese Premier Li Qiang, marking the first visit by a Chinese premier in seven years.
  • Defensemirror.com bureau
  • 08:15 AM, June 18, 2024
  • 1207
Eye on China, Australia's 'Pitch Black' Exercise to be Biggest Ever in 43 Years
Germany Eurofighter Typhoon and RAAF F-35A Lightning II aircraft during Exercise Pitch Black 22.

The 2024 'Pitch Black' exercise will involve 440 aircraft from 20 nations, with first-time participation from Italy, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Spain, Brunei, and Fiji.

The biggest Exercise Pitch Black in Air Force history will return from July 12 to August 2.

As the Air Force’s premier biennial flying activity for strengthening international engagement, Exercise Pitch Black 24 will involve 20 nations and one multinational element. Together, they’ll work from RAAF Bases Darwin, Tindal, and Amberley for three weeks of large-force employment missions in military airspace over the Northern Territory. Air Commodore Peter Robinson will lead Exercise Pitch Black 24 as Officer Conducting the Exercise.

Hosting the biggest Pitch Black in the exercise’s 43-year history will be made possible through the use of new infrastructure and increased use of other bases and facilities.

“We’ll use Defence Accommodation Precinct Darwin at Howard Springs for the first time, housing thousands of Australian and multinational participants throughout the exercise,” said Air Commodore Peter Robinson. “RAAF Base Amberley will also take on an increased role in this exercise compared to 2022, with a greater number of tankers and transport aircraft operating from there.”

Exercise Pitch Black missions will require complex planning and coordination across hundreds of Australian and international aircrew and thousands of support personnel. Aircraft will fly over thousands of kilometers of Australian outback in precisely controlled airspace, overcoming dynamic threats.

The announcement of the exercise comes soon after Australia hosted Chinese Premier Li Qiang on June 17, marking the first visit by a Chinese premier in seven years. Tensions between the two countries had risen over Australian legislation banning foreign interference in local politics, Huawei's exclusion from Australia’s 5G network, and calls for an independent COVID-19 investigation. China had banned $20 billion in Australian exports and friction over defense encounters. Li's visit signals a thaw in relations amidst trade disputes and defense tensions. Canberra has also criticized China’s military in recent months for its “unacceptable” and “unsafe” behavior in international skies and waters, and has called for restraint in the disputed South China Sea, which Beijing claims almost in its entirety. Australia has also joined the QUAD security grouping with India, Japan, and the United States, as well as the AUKUS pact with the United Kingdom and the United States.