An F-22 Raptor fighter assigned to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, lands at Royal Australian Air Force Base Tindal, Australia, on Sept. 1, 2022.

An F-22 Raptor fighter assigned to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, lands at Royal Australian Air Force Base Tindal, Australia, on Sept. 1, 2022. (Seth Robson/Stars and Stripes)

U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor stealth fighters and Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey tiltrotors are scheduled to fly with aircraft of 21 other nations in Australia’s largest-ever modern airpower exercise this month.

Exercise Pitch Black runs from July 12 to Aug. 2 in the east coast state of Queensland and the Northern Territory, the Australian Defence Force said in a statement June 19.

“This will be the biggest single air exercise that we have hosted in the modern Air Force, with approximately 140 aircraft and more than 4400 personnel participating,” Australian Air Commodore Peter Robinson, who will lead the drills, said in the statement.

Pitch Black will involve “the most advanced air combat capabilities in the world,” and include air-to-air refueling, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, and airlift, the statement said.

For the first time the exercise will include aircraft from Italy, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and Spain. Embedded personnel from Brunei and Fiji will participate for the first time, according to the statement.

The Air Force F-22s will fly out of Royal Australian Air Force Base Tindal in the Northern Territory during the drill, according to the Australian air force’s official website.

The fifth-generation fighters were practicing dynamic force employment at Tindal in 2022 for the last Pitch Black exercise.

The concept, laid out in the 2018 National Defense Strategy, means putting a major combat force into a fight while keeping options available to counter emerging threats. It also means being strategically predictable but operationally unpredictable.

Pacific Air Forces in Hawaii did not respond Sunday to questions about the number of Raptors and the unit going to Pitch Black.

Meanwhile the Marines’ MV-22s will fly from RAAF Darwin, also in the Northern Territory, according to the Australian website.

Ten Ospreys assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 268 (Reinforced), based at Marine Corps Base Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, arrived in Darwin last month to join the annual six-month training rotation of about 2,000 Marines.

During Pitch Black the American aircraft will join a fleet of fighters and support aircraft that includes Lightning IIs from Australia and Italy and Typhoon fighters from Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom, according to the air force website.

India is sending its Russian-made Su-30MKI Flanker fighter while other nations are sending a variety of fighters, fuelers and transport planes to the drills, the website states.

“The size of this exercise will enable cooperation that will go beyond what was possible at any previous Pitch Black, from engaging with our immediate regional partners through to welcoming allies and partners from around the globe,” Robinson said in the statement.

The drills will utilize new infrastructure and more Australian bases and facilities than in past years, the statement said.

“We’ll use Defence Accommodation Precinct Darwin at Howard Springs for the first time, housing thousands of Australian and multinational participants throughout the exercise,” Robinson said. 

RAAF Base Amberley in Queensland will take on an increased role in the exercise compared to 2022, with a greater number of tankers and transport aircraft operating from there, he said.

Missions will require complex planning and coordination across hundreds of Australian and international aircrew and thousands of support personnel, the statement said.

“Aircraft will fly over thousands of kilometers of Australian outback in precisely controlled airspace, overcoming dynamic threats by day and night,” the statement said.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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