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Pitch Black work up - on target, on time.



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Department of Defence

PACC 357/02 Wednesday, 17 July 2002

PITCH BLACK WORK UP - ON TARGET, ON TIME

After three days of a staged work-up for Australia's biggest air defence exercise for 2002, Exercise Pitch Black, all the signs are there for one of the most successful exercises ever.

Pitch Black 2002 is smaller in size than previous Pitch Black Exercises due to the commitment elsewhere of US and British assets, and its format has been changed slightly to allow some more structured combat engagements over the exercise areas of Central Western New South Wales and off the New South Wales coast.

Wing Commander Michael Smith, Executive Officer of 82 Wing, said one of the most pleasing factors to emerge in the first few days was the ease of interoperability with the Republic of Singapore Air Force, which forms part of the attacking force based at RAAF Base Amberley.

"We'll be flying joint strikes when the exercise ramps up next week (Monday 22 July) and the way our two air forces are working together I think we can guarantee some pretty formidable combat training for our defenders, the F/A-18s (Hornets) flying out of RAAF Williamtown at Newcastle", he said.

Pitch Black 2002 is also the first major exercise for the RAAF's new lead-in fighter, the Hawk 127 which, although based at Williamtown, is forming part of the attacking force.

Wing Commander Smith said the Hawk's handling and versatility was very impressive. "The plane's primarily designed as a lead-in fighter trainer, but it is tremendously agile; in fact one of the pilots likened it to a Hornet without an afterburner.

"Also the upgrade to the F/A-18 Hornets (HUG1) has improved the capability of these jet fighters in line with the ongoing upgrade of defence platforms," he said.

Exercise Pitch Black 2002, involving some 57 aircraft and 900 support personnel from Australia and Singapore continues tomorrow.

NB: Vision will be available from ABC Channel 2 Brisbane, and images can be downloaded at: www.defence.gov.au/gallery

Pitch Black 02 Media Information Bureau Contact: SQNLDR Paul Lineham, Ph: 07 56411823 or 0438 785 936 http://www.defence.gov.au/raaf/exercises/pitchblack02/