The skies above Katherine and Darwin will be dominated by 140 air force planes from around the world over the next three weeks in one of the Asia Pacific region's largest military exercises.
The biennial Pitch Black might only be an air combat training exercise but it is a serious opportunity for the Royal Australian Air Force and other countries involved to practise fighting together.
More than 4000 people from around the world will take part in exercises between RAAF Darwin, RAAF Tindal in Katherine and the ocean and other remote areas in the Top End including weapons ranges.
"A lot of times where Australia has participated in operations around the world, we've participated as part of a coalition and practising as part of that coalition is really important," Air Commodore Michael Kitcher, who is running Pitch Black, told reporters.
"Even though we all fly fighter aircraft or transport or other aircraft we all do it slightly differently and exercising in realistic scenarios as we present in Pitch Black allows us to actually learn from each other.
"When we can go fly with Indian, Indonesian, Thai, Singaporean and US folk we can go out there, execute missions, come back, debrief the mission (and) ... end up far more effective at working together."
As well as air combat, the exercise will include a field hospital, stabilisation and security operations including Army and Air Force elements and logistical support to maintain a remote air base.
The Northern Territory is regarded as an excellent location because of all the unpopulated space the planes can fly over and is as close to Asia's big cities as it is Sydney and Melbourne.
It is only six months since Australian Super Hornets finished operations in Iraq and Syria fighting Islamic State in Operation Okra.
For some Darwin locals the event, which has been running since the 1990s, is a noisy intrusion with loud planes flying day and night.
However, it pumps millions of dollars into the economy and for aircraft enthusiasts and those interested, there will be a flying display with planes passing low over Mindil Beach market on the evening of August 2 and an open day to inspect the jets at RAAF Darwin on August 4.
The air forces involved are from Canada, France, New Caledonia, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Sweden, Thailand and the US.
Australian Associated Press
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