German Air Force to join Australia’s Exercise Pitch Black for first time

Australian Department of Defence

The German Air Force is set to travel to Australia to make its debut in the country’s multi-national Exercise Pitch Black, marking the first time the German and Australian forces have trained together.  

The Luftwaffe will arrive Down Under in mid-August, with more than 200 personnel, six Eurofighter Typhoons, three A330 multi-role tanker transports and an A400M transport aircraft, the Australian Department of Defence said in a press release on August 15, 2022.   

One purpose of Pitch Black is to demonstrate the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) commitment to building and enhancing military relationships with regional and partner nations. The exercise will enhance regional security “through multinational interoperability and understanding” the RAAF stated on its website.  

The biennial three-week multi-national large force employment exercise will primarily take place from RAAF Base Darwin and RAAF Base Tindal. RAAF Base Amberley, located near Ipswich, will also be included in this year’s exercise.  

“The Indo-Pacific is of great importance to Germany. We share the same values with many partners in this region,” Chief of the German Air Force Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz said.  

“Defending those values in case of a war emergency and being able to support our partners is something that needs to be practised,” he added.  

The German Air Force with its Eurofighters, a multi-role aircraft employed in air-to-air as well as air-to-ground combat (both at close range and from a long distance), also assumes responsibility in Europe and within NATO for securing the airspace. This includes the quick reaction alert element in Estonia and working closely with Italian and UK air forces in Romania. 

Germany opts for F-35 

The German government has also recently agreed to purchase the F-35 to replace its Tornado weapon system, with Pitch Black providing an opportunity to integrate more closely with Australia’s F-35A, the press release added.  

“The F-35 aircraft will further expand the broad spectrum of our capabilities. Since the Royal Australian Air Force is already flying this combat aircraft, we will be able to learn from them as well,” Gerhartz said. 

Following Pitch Black, the Luftwaffe will participate in Exercise Kakadu before continuing its Rapid Pacific deployment to Japan and the Republic of Korea. Once the exercises are complete, Gerhartz will fly himself in a Eurofighter through to Japan.  

Pitch Black will host up to 2,500 personnel and up to 100 aircraft from a range of partner and allied nations, including Australia, France, Germany, Indonesia, India, Singapore, UK, the Philippines, Thailand, UAE, Canada, Netherlands, Malaysia, New Zealand and the US, with Japan and the Republic of Korea also participating fully in the exercise for the first time. 

The exercise will also support a concurrent International Observer Group program, providing an opportunity for foreign forces to gain an appreciation of how Australia prepares for and executes major activities. 

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