Australian air base opens gates for a closer look at Pitch Black military hardware
Stars and Stripes August 30, 2022
DARWIN, Australia — A display of military hardware from the multinational force taking part in the biennial Pitch Black exercise in northern Australia drew scores of locals and troops for a closer look.
Thousands packed Royal Australian Air Force Base Darwin over the weekend to inspect an inventory of military equipment a small nation would envy. Aircraft like an MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor and an Indian air force Sukoi SU-30MKI Flanker fighter jet shared the stage with mundane equipment like armored vehicles and cargo trucks.
Marine 1st Lt. Kevin Nguyen, 24, of Ashburn, Va., said he thought the Marines’ own Osprey was the coolest aircraft on the ramp, although he found the Australian version of the F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter equally impressive.
“I think they are taking a little bit of the focus away from the trucks,” said Nguyen, commander of the Marine Rotational Force – Darwin motor transport platoon.
The event was organized as part of the biennial Pitch Black drills involving 2,500 airmen, over 100 aircraft and 17 nations underway in Australia’s Northern Territory until Sept. 8.
The open house at RAAF Darwin put on display much of the equipment at work for the six-month rotational force and the participants of Pitch Black.
Cattle grazier David Pattemore, 63, queued up on Saturday to peer inside the Osprey, said the Air Force and Marine presence is welcome in the Northern Territory.
“Unfortunately, the world’s not a beautiful place all over,” he said before bringing up China’s rapid military buildup and “aggressive” efforts to gain influence in the region.
Hardware available for inspection included armored vehicles, bomb-defusing robots, border-patrol boats and fighter aircraft from the U.S. Air Force and European allies: F-16 Fighting Falcons, Eurofighter Typhoons and Australia’s new, stealthy F-35A Lighting II.
Vintage planes such as a World War II-era P-51 Mustang fighter stood nearby.
In addition to the Falcon and the Osprey, the U.S. brought an Air Force F-15 Eagle and a Marine KC-130J aerial refueler. The Marines brought along some tactical vehicles, too.
Marine Lance Cpl. Jordan Hernandez, 22, of Oceanside, Calif., was helping locals check out a logistics vehicle replenishment system.
People were eager for selfies in the big green truck, said Hernandez, who has been in Australia with the rotational force for six months.
The worst part of the deployment has been the heat, he said; the best part is the “beer and parties.”
Another Marine, Cpl. Armando Valtierra, 21, of Los Angeles, showed off an all-wheel-drive, 7-ton truck that moves personnel, ammo, hazardous materials and fuel.
The Marines have been impressed by Australian army trucks during their time Down Under, Valtierra said.
“We like to look at their trucks and they look at ours,” he said. “I like the ‘G Wagon,’ which is a kind of dune buggy they use for off road.”
Nguyen, the transport platoon leader, said Marines attended another military expo in Darwin in July.
“It’s great for the community and great for the Marines,” he said.