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News | Sept. 13, 2022

Pitch Black 2022 Concludes International Interoperability Exercise

By Staff Sgt. Savannah Waters Pacific Air Forces

DARWIN, Australia Approximately 110 U.S. Airmen from Pacific Air Forces participated in Exercise Pitch Black 2022, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Chief of Air Force’s biennial capstone international engagement activity with forces drawn from a wide range of regional, coalition and Allied nations. This year, 17 nations participated in PB22 from Aug. 19 to Sept. 8, 2022.

The exercise focused on the tactical execution of Large Force Employment Offensive Counter Air and Counter Land operations in a multi-national coalition environment to enhance interoperability among the U.S., Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, and United Kingdom forces.

“The objective of the United States is to have a free and open Indo-Pacific for all nations within this region,” said U.S. Air Force Gen. Ken Wilsbach, Pacific Air Forces commander. “The main idea behind our strategy in the Indo-Pacific, specifically PACAF, is to work with Allies and partners, and Pitch Black represents a perfect place for our air forces to train together and become interoperable.”

Up to 2,500 personnel and 100 aircraft from around the world operated from RAAF Darwin and RAAF Tindal to conduct air operations in northern Australia, combining efforts to better integrate multilateral defense capabilities and enhance interoperability.

Pitch Black began in 1981 and was initially limited to Australian participation until 1983, when the U.S. became the first international participant. Many participants have joined Pitch Black since then, with the goal of enhancing combat readiness and interoperability between partner nations. This year is the first year the Republic of Korea Air Force, Japan Air Self-Defense Force, and German Air Force fully participated.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Mackenzie Cea, 18th Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment craftsman, has been stationed in Europe, the Republic of Korea and now Japan and was excited to work with all those nations at once.

“Every time I’ve worked with either partner, I’ve found them to be incredibly kind and hospitable,” Cea said. “I can see the excitement on their faces being out here in Australia and conducting missions with us. Seeing how excited our partners are to work with us makes me excited to do what we do.”

The first Pitch Black since the COVID-19 pandemic, PB22 hosted multiple community engagement events to include a flypast at Mindil Beach, an Open Day and local youth program integrations.

Both the flypast and Open Day garnered thousands of attendees to learn more about the multilateral exercise and each nation’s respective Air Forces, and local community youth members had the opportunity to tour the F-15C Eagle with U.S. Airmen.

“Pitch Black 22 has been a phenomenal opportunity to work with a number of partners we don’t normally interact with,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Ross Kohler, 67th Fighter Squadron F-15 Eagle pilot. “Both on the ground and in the air, communication is the key to successfully operating as a joint force. By breaking down barriers to communication in training, we exponentially increase our ability to respond with our partners to any contingency that might arise in the region, and that training is invaluable.“

Pitch Black 22 is a model opportunity for expanding engagements with Allies and partners across the globe and demonstrates our resolve to promote security and stability throughout the Indo-Pacific region.