Biennial Exercise Pitch Black, staged out of Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Bases Darwin and Tindal concluded on August 22nd, 2014.
The Exercise saw Saab Gripen of the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) making their debut at an overseas exercise since deliveries of the type began in 2011. RTAF had sent six Gripen to Darwin for Pitch Black, along with 15 pilots and 75 technicians.
Six RTAF Gripen flew for two daily missions of up to two-and-a-half hours over the vast Bradshaw and Delamere Ranges south of Darwin at exercise Pitch Black 2014. The aim of the exercise was to practice Offensive Counter Air and Defensive Counter Air combat in a simulated yet complex war environment.
The exercise divides the participating aircraft into a 'red team' and a 'blue team' based at separate locations, with one attacking the other. RTAF Gripen conducted primarily air-to-air missions carrying simulated AMRAAM and AIM-9X AAMs for blue force offensive counter air and red force defensive counter air missions.
The Thais were effusive in their praise of the new aircraft, with Wing Commander Chareon Watanasrimongkol, commander of the RTAF’s Wing 701 and Chief Planner of the Thai contingent at PB14, describing the Gripen as being in a “different world” in terms of avionics compared to the F-16 that the Thais had operated previously at Pitch Black.
Pitch Black 2014 saw 110 aircraft and more than 2,300 personnel from seven countries taking part. Host Australia was joined by aircraft of Pitch Black regulars the United States, Singapore and Thailand, while the United Arab Emirates and French also sent flying contingents and New Zealand contributed ground support personnel.