Interactive exhibits and displays, rides and performances from both the Air Force Band, along with a stirring 'Haka' by Royal New Zealand Air Force personnel, were just some of the attractions enjoyed by all ages at the free family friendly event.
The RAAF being the major player in Exercise Pitch Black 2016 had almost all of its types of aircraft participating in the Exercise on display.
Heavy transport aircraft in the form of a Boeing C-17A Globemaster III and Airbus A330-203 / KC-30A (MRTT) proved popular.
As did the RAAF's lead-in fighter jets in the form of McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A Hornet A21-49 - wearing its 70 year anniversary of 77 Squadron colour scheme, along with a Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet of Number 1 Squadron - "The fighting first".
Also drawing big crowds were a pair of United States Marine Corps (USMC) McDonnell Douglas F/A-18C Hornets from VMFA‐122 "Werewolves" along with a Lockheed KC-130J Hercules of the Marine Aerial Refueller Transport Squadron 152 (VMGR-152) “Sumos”.
The doors of the KC-130J were thrown open and people queued for almost an hour to have look inside and even visit the flightdeck of the Herc. The USMC Hornets and Hercules have been operating out of RAAF Base Tindal near Katherine during the Exercise and flew in to Darwin to be put on display to the public.
Also open for the public to take a look inside were the French Air Force (Armée de l'air) CASA CN-235 and Royal Canadian Air Force Lockheed KCC-130H Hercules Tanker/Transport aircraft.
The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) had one of their Boeing F-15SG “Shikra” Strike Eagles of 149 Squadron out of Paya Lebar Air Base on display, with the remaining seven parked near to the Open Day area, alongside their six General Dynamics (Lockheed Martin) F-16C/D Fighting Falcons of 143 Squadron out of Tengah Air Base.
The brilliantly coloured Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) F-16B wearing the markings of 403 Squadron based from Takhli.
Completing an impressive line up of fighter jets was a United States Air Force (USAF) F-16C Viper of 14th Tactical Fighter Squadron “Samurai’s” from Misawa Air Base in Japan based at Darwin.
Finally, there was a wide variety of other locally-based aircraft and helicopters from local Darwin-based operators on display. These included Australian Border Force (ABF) Dash-8-300 VH-ZZE, Careflight AW139 VH-YHF and NT Police PC-12 VH-YDR, which are all based at Darwin Airport.
Several ultralight aircraft from the Top End Flying Club based at Emkaytee Airfield (40kms South of Dawin) also flew in for the Open Day, along with some of the heritage aircraft from The Australian Aviation Heritage Centre (Darwin's Aviation Museum) which were also towed over and put on display.
The Open Day followed a flying display performed at Mindil Beach on Thursday 11 August which included a handling display by a RAAF F/A‐18F Super Hornet, an international four‐ship formation display comprising of a RSAF F‐15SG and F‐16, joining a RAAF F/A‐18A Hornet and F/A‐18F Super Hornet and low level flypasts from a number of the larger aircraft participating in the Exercise including a RAAF C‐17 Globemaster, AP‐3C Orion, C‐130J‐30 Hercules and then French Air Force (Armée de l'air) CASA CN-235.
Head of Special Events, Air Commodore Sawade, said the Open Day and flying displays at Mindil Beach provided an opportunity for the RAAF to thank the Northern Territory community and their continued support for the important exercise. “With up to 115 aircraft and approximately 2800 personnel from 10 countries taking part in this exercise we wanted to say a big ‘thank‐you’ to the Northern Territory for hosting us and our international partners during Exercise Pitch Black 2016,” Air Commodore Sawade said.
He adds, ”We could not achieve essential military training in the Top End without the support of the community. The Pitch Black Open Day 2016 and Mindil Beach flying displays showcased RAAF capabilities to the public and provided them with the opportunity to talk to military personnel. We wanted to say thank you as we really appreciate the Darwin community which is a real defence community, we are really welcomed by the locals here and these displays are for them. We are never disappointed in Darwin they are really welcoming and we want to welcome them with hosting these events for them to enjoy.”
The displays on Thursday night were, by all reports, very well received with people of all ages looking skyward in awe at the presentation. The Pitch Black Open Day 2016 at RAAF Base Darwin had more of a coming together feel about it and you could see the smiles on the faces of the personnel as they spoke enthusiastically about their aircraft. Everyone was happy to be there and share stories and experiences of flying these magnificent machines.
Personnel from Canada along with their KCC‐130H, who were deployed to RAAF Base Tindal to conduct air-to-air refuelling for the various fighters from the USMC and RAAF, were particularly excited to be apart of the Open Day, with one remarking that this was his first time to Australia.. He was also pleasantly surprised and really thankful for the support of the local community.
Exercise Pitch Black injects a major boost into the Northern Territory economy and employment with the exercise expected to generate approximately $25 million into the community. Support from the local community is extremely important for the Air Force to train its people and conduct activities in preparation for operations around the globe.
Exercise Pitch Black is the Air Force’s largest training activity and was conducted in the Northern Territory from Friday 29 July to Friday 19 August.