Overseas countries keep returning to the Northern Territory to test out their military’s prowess.
One reason their air forces like it so much is the NT boasts one of the largest training airspace areas in the world.
The less discussed attraction is the giant Delamere bombing range.
More politely known as a air weapons range these days or DELAWR, Delamere offers more than 2000 square kilometres of government-owned land.
About 120 kilometres south of Katherine and under the control of the Tindal RAAF Base, Delamere facility is managed round-the-clock by a lonely detachment of eight members of the No. 322 Expeditionary Combat Support Squadron RAAF.
Legend has it that the range is so in demand a bomber flew from the USA, dropped its pretend ordnance at Delamere, and flew back home – all without landing.
Most often real bombs are not used, accuracy is checked electronically with the people on the ground.
Besides its large tracts of unoccupied land it has 18,000 metres of vertical airspace clearance.
So imagine a box which holds 2000 square kilometres of most unpopulated bush, which reaches 18 kilometres into the sky.
Lots of space to play in if you happen to have some very expensive equipment you must keep testing.
Delamere has two practice ranges for smaller weapons testing, a fake airfield, even a fake town built from shipping containers.
Importantly it is 100 kilometres east of the even larger Bradshaw Field Training Area which has an area of 8700 square kilometres and is heavily frequented by the Army testing out its tanks.
There has been some thought the Department of Defence would like the buy the land between the two big ranges and create one massive one.
Delamere even has its own airfield.
Delamere is electronically linked with Bradshaw Field and Mount Bundey Training Area to form the North Australian Range Complex.
Delamere is the RAAF’s primary range for air-to-surface weapon delivery training and a firm favourite of overseas countries.
Just recently as part of all the Defence upgrades, a 212-room village was built in the area to house Lendlease contractors and staff working on the Delamere upgrade.
Delamere is part of the Growler Airborne Electronic Attack Capability program.
Australia has bought 12 Boeing EA-18G “Growler” airborne electronic attack aircraft, and Delamere is a key to Growler training even though they are to be based at RAAF Amberley.
In the past few weeks during Exercise Pitch Black, Delamere has hosted all sorts of military enthusiasm from air and ground.
Joint Terminal Attack Controllers from the Australian Army 16 Air Land Regiment and Royal Netherlands Army deployed there.
Australian JTACs are working closely with international forces to enhance interoperability with the planning, briefing, controlling and reporting of close air support on the battlefield.
On operations, JTACs embed with ground-combat troops and direct precision air strikes against hostile targets.
Australian Army JTAC Evaluator, SGT Corey Freckleton, said Exercise Pitch Black enables JTACs to cross-train and share intelligence to execute a wide range of missions.
“Today we’ve been working with the Dutch Forces at the Delamere Air Weapons Range, predominately operating from an observation tower engaging targets in a tactical urban environment,” said SGT Freckleton.
“Once the training target was identified, the RAAF No. 4 Squadron PC-9 dropped a smoke marker for coalition fighters to engage on a Close Air Support (CAS) mission.
“Other target engagements used precision munitions including Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) and laser guided munitions with aircraft from the United States Air Force, Royal Singaporean Air Force, United States Marine Corp and other international forces.
“Throughout the exercise, we will provide support for a multitude of countries including Canadian, Dutch and Germans JTACs.
“Delamere vast open spaces provide an environment where JTACs from across the world can integrate to achieve joint learning outcomes.”
Exercise Pitch Black is a biennial three week multi-national large force employment exercise.
Exercise Pitch Black features a range of realistic, simulated threats which can be found in a modern battle-space environment and is an opportunity to test and improve our force integration, utilising one of the largest training airspace areas in the world — Bradshaw Field Training Area and Delamere Air Weapons Range.