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India among 17 nations joining Australia’s ‘Pitch Black’ exercise

Indian Air Force Su-30 MKI. (Photo courtesy of Saurav Chordia)
August 04, 2022

In a multilateral defense buildup, India will be part of a mega air combat drill Pitch Black 2022 hosted by Australia later this month. The Australian government confirmed the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) participation in a statement this week.

The 17-day long exercise will take place from Aug. 19 to Sept. 6. Comprised of 18 contingents, it will showcase the participation of around 100 aircraft from the 17 participating nations, including major frontline fighter jets. Approximately 2,500 military personnel will also join from the 17 nations.

IAF is expected to deploy its major fighter jet to participate in the exercise.

Participating nations in this year’s exercise include Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Indonesia, India, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, UAE, the U.K. and the U.S.

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) considers Pitch Black its “capstone” international engagement activity with the air forces of strategic partners and allies. India has significantly increased its defense cooperation with Australia in recent years under the rising rim of QUAD activities.

Australian media said the aircraft and military personnel will arrive in the Northern Territory in the country in two weeks to commence Pitch Black 2022 (PBK22).

This year’s edition will be hosted four years since the last edition of Pitch Black was held. The exercise was set to take place in 2020, but was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s exercise will witness the grand return of the combined force to Australian skies, enhancing interoperability and strengthening relationships with its major allies and defense partners.

Since June 2020 after India witnessed a sudden Chinese incursion in Galwan valley near Ladakh, both India and Australia committed to enhancing their ties and building a comprehensive strategic partnership. The two nations signed a foundational deal for reciprocal access to military bases for logistics support. The Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) gives authorizes the two nations to use each other’s military bases for repair and replenishment of supplies.

In addition to facilitating the scaling up of overall defense cooperation, this agreement boosted India’s cooperative expansion to increase its presence in the Indo Pacific region to counterbalance China’s aggressive efforts.