The powerful roar of military jets at night

A Royal Australian Air Force No. 35 Squadron C-27J Spartan aircraft arrives at RAAF Tindal during Exercise Pitch Black. Picture: Defence Media.
A Royal Australian Air Force No. 35 Squadron C-27J Spartan aircraft arrives at RAAF Tindal during Exercise Pitch Black. Picture: Defence Media.

Night-time flying has begun in earnest as part of Exercise Pitch Black.

Exercise Pitch Black 18’s night-time flying program will allow participants to safely practice their role under the cover of darkness.

Night-time flying will be conducted from the Tindal and Darwin RAAF bases on week days between 7-11pm until August 16.

Group Captain Rob Denney, a RAAF fighter pilot and Commander Task Unit Headquarters for Exercise Pitch Black 18, said night-time flying was an important skillset for aircrew to practice.

“It sounds like a fairly obvious statement to make, but half of every day is night,” Group Captain Denney said.

“When flying in daylight hours pilots are able to deconflict themselves from other aircraft, and the ground, primarily using their sight, but at night that primary sense is taken away.”

F/A-18 Hornets from the United States Marine Corps taxi toward the RAAF Tindal airstrip as they participate in Exercise Pitch Black 2018. Picture: Defence Media.

F/A-18 Hornets from the United States Marine Corps taxi toward the RAAF Tindal airstrip as they participate in Exercise Pitch Black 2018. Picture: Defence Media.

“In that situation, all you have to avoid a collision are your instruments and the procedures that you’ve trained in for deconflicting at night.”

Night-time flying is a skill practiced all year round to ensure aircrew remain proficient.

“The ability to operate an aircraft at night is a perishable skill; it declines over time,” Group Captain Denney said. 

“For that reason we are constantly training our pilots on night flying missions.” 

“Our new pilots need to undertake training so they can learn this new skill and our qualified pilots need to do refresher training to ensure they maintain their proficiency and we retain our ability to fight and win at night.” 

Exercise Pitch Black 18 will involve up to 140 aircraft and 4000 participants supporting day-time and night-time missions. For RAAF personnel, the exercise is important to ensuring they remain ready to conduct a range of operations.

“We can’t be a capable fighting force if we can only fight the enemy during daylight hours,” Group Captain Denney said.

Corporal Shaun Ennis, of the Royal Canadian Air Force, and Leading Aircraftman Adam Commegno, from the Royal Australian Air Force, in front of a Canadian CC-130H(T) Hercules Refueller on the flightline of RAAF Tindal during Exercise Pitch Black 2018. Pictures: Defence Media.

Corporal Shaun Ennis, of the Royal Canadian Air Force, and Leading Aircraftman Adam Commegno, from the Royal Australian Air Force, in front of a Canadian CC-130H(T) Hercules Refueller on the flightline of RAAF Tindal during Exercise Pitch Black 2018. Pictures: Defence Media.

“We have to be able to fight whenever we have the advantage or whenever the enemy brings the fight to us,”  

“When that requires us to fly at night, we can’t afford to risk our people and the Australian public’s multi-million dollar aircraft with pilots who aren’t adequately trained to fly them in those conditions,” he said.

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