Aviation Spotters Online

Aviation Spotters Online

All posts by Mark Jessop

RAAF F/A-18A Hornet "star Wars"

“Per Ardua Ad Astra” – ‘Through Adversity to the Stars’

Exercise Pitch Black 2016 is the largest air exercise over Australia this year and true to it’s name most of the flying is done at night over a massive area south of Darwin. At this year’s Exercise the Royal Australian Air Force really ramped up the media exposure allowing 20 photographers & videographers to cover the event. Now this presents two major challenges –

  • How do you try and get a different shot to everyone else when everyone is standing in the same location with close to the same setup of camera gear ?
  • How can you capture an image when half the flying is done at night time ?

Monday Night

Nikon Australia & their Nikon Professional Services (NPS) team decided it was my turn to try out their latest masterpiece the D5 DSLR and just so I couldn’t complain they matched it with the longest lens they make, the 800mm 5.6f VR ED. As Always I brought along my full setup of a Nikon D800 , 300mm 2.8f ED, 200-500mm 5.6f VR , 70-200mm 2.8f VR and just in case I got close to anything NPS lent me a 24-75mm 2.8f VR + Nikon MC-36 hand held remote.

RSAF F-15SG getting ready. Camera:Nikon D5 ISO:102,400 Shutter:1/160th 5.6F 800mm
RSAF F-15SG getting ready. Camera: D5 ISO:102,400 Shutter:1/160th 5.6F 800mm

The reviews & internet chat about just how crazy the D5 was and how far it can be pushed to get a cracker photo in low light needed to be tested. I knew the guys in the team would smash out crackers and have all the angles covered in daylight which freed me up to try and find a way to get something different at night or at least something in low light.

RTAF F-16 Camera: Nikon D5 ISO: 12,800 Shutter: 1/125, F5.6f 800mm
RTAF F-16 Camera: Nikon D5 ISO: 12,800 Shutter: 1/125, F5.6f 800mm

Monday night was my first chance to see if i could get anything decent using the best camera gear Nikon have made. We headed over to the Eastern side of the airport to one of the many spotters spots beside the Careflight hangar and it was great to see so many locals already there to enjoy the action with many having their own cameras ready to capture the action as well. I have shot in well lit areas at night before but had only had one chance before this at night take offs which i wasn’t to happy with the results I got. I started with the most basic settings in manual working off 5.6f as the most open the Nikkor 800mm would go to let light in, a shutter speed between 1/320th to 1/500th as the length and weight of the lens was going to make slow shutters speeds for panning very hard. Using these basic settings I mixed up the ISO settings as much as possible between each launch and only after a few goes I was getting some good results but like all photos what might look good on the back viewer screen doesn’t mean it will be any good until I see it on a good monitor.  From our position the aircraft were taking off left to right and getting into to air close to in front of us at a distance of about 530m. There are some nice tower lights on the base side but every aircraft rotated at a different spot so lining up any background light to help the aircraft’s profile stand out was going to be lucky.

USAF F-16CJ Camera: Nikon D5, ISO: 102,400 Shutter: 1/160th, 5.6f 800mm
USAF F-16CJ Camera: Nikon D5, ISO: 102,400 Shutter: 1/160th, 5.6f 800mm
RAAF F/A-18A Hornet Camera: Nikon D5, ISO: 1600, Shutter: 1/250th 5.6f 800mm
RAAF F/A-18A Hornet Camera: Nikon D5, ISO: 1600, Shutter: 1/250th 5.6f 800mm
RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornet Camera: Nikon D5, ISO: 1600, Shutter: 1/400th, 5.6f 800mm
RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornet Camera: Nikon D5, ISO: 1600, Shutter: 1/400th, 5.6f 800mm

As it turned out the ability of the Nikon D5 and Nikkor 800m 5.6f VR shocked me in just what was possible as I was getting crisp shots at shutter speeds down to 1/125th which I think is awesome as I was hand holding the camera.

One of the best things of so many jets going out is that is that once you try and get over just how awesome the launch was it’s not long before they all start heading back to land. We moved to the South Eastern end on the perimeter fence for what would start as side on shots but would end up straight underneath shots. From a few km’s out a line of landing lights appear but waiting till they were close enough to get the auto focus to lock on the front wheel light before trying to get a shot. Between each jet I found myself walking closer to the center line until I was straight underneath the aircraft as they landed. The strongest light was in the wheel bay and I just wanted to see if it was possible to get a head on shot in virtually no light.

RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornet Camera: Nikon D5, ISO: 1600, Shutter: 1/320th, 5.6f 800mm
RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornet Camera: Nikon D5, ISO: 1600, Shutter: 1/320th, 5.6f 800mm
RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornet Camera: Nikon D5, ISO: 25,600 Shutter: 1/400th, 5.6f 800mm
RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornet Camera: Nikon D5, ISO: 25,600 Shutter: 1/400th, 5.6f 800mm
RTAF F-16 Camera: Nikon D5, ISO: 25,600 Shutter: 1/400th, 5.6f 800mm
RTAF F-16 Camera: Nikon D5, ISO: 25,600 Shutter: 1/400th, 5.6f 800mm

Something which had I had not experienced before was to stand right under a F-15 as it landed, with so much going on as the space between each aircraft was only a minute or two at best and trying to keep up with taking photos and what settings to use the first F-15 came over and about 5-10 seconds after it passed this crazy sound of something like a massive ribbon or streamer of Air from the wingtips came down right on top of us. I had heard this sound once or twice but it sounded like a whip of air hitting the ground and the first few times it surprises you, but over the next few nights this air would really play havoc with what I was trying to do.

I was loving being so close even if I didn’t get a photo but, on one of the Super Hornets passes I didn’t chase it but kept looking up and saw how clear the sky was and just how many stars I could see.  Now how do I get stars and a jet to work in one frame and in one shot?

Tuesday Night

I was pretty happy with Monday’s results and was thinking of just how many different locations our trusty local team member Sid Mitchell could take us too. Sid loved the challenge and took us to a nice spot on the base side south end. Tonight’s launches would come straight at us but to make the challenge harder most aircraft would have the after burner off by the time they got close to us but we would just enjoy the sound and view of 40+ jets taking off and if I got a photo it would be a bonus. As we expected we were too far to really get any photos but the USAF F-16’s keep their Afterburner on for longer than the rest and I still got some shots but even using the 800mm sometimes you just have to be closer.

RSAF KC-135 Tanker Camera: Nikon D5,ISO: 3200 Shutter: 1/400th 5.6f 800mm
RSAF KC-135 Tanker Camera: Nikon D5,ISO: 3200 Shutter: 1/400th 5.6f 800mm
USAF F-16 Camera: Nikon D5 ISO: 5000 Shutter: 1/500th 5.6f 800mm
USAF F-16 Camera: Nikon D5 ISO: 5000 Shutter: 1/500th 5.6f 800mm
USAF F-16 Camera: Nikon D5 ISO: 5000 Shutter: 1/500th 5.6f 800mm
USAF F-16 Camera: Nikon D5 ISO: 5000 Shutter: 1/500th 5.6f 800mm

Once all the aircraft had launched we headed back to the center line at the South end and setup up for the returns. Sid brought along his tripod, so I set the Nikon D800 and 24-70mm 2.8f VR with the Nikon MC-36 hand held remote plugged in. This remote is a great little unit that makes it very easy to program different intervals of shutter release which I use a lot when I do time lapse stars at home. I worked off starting with the settings I use at home for doing stars which is Camera mode: manual, ISO: 5000, 4.0f and test exposure of 15 seconds using bulb mode. I never go long then 25 seconds as then the stars start to move in the frame. Since I was still taking photos with the Nikon D5 but this time with the 300mm 2.8f Peter stepped up to fire the remote and help see if it was possible to get a photo I was thinking about.

This is the first frame we tried to get an aircraft in the frame, we judged the exposure by how bright we thought the lights on the aircraft where and the distance out.

RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornet Camera: Nikon D800, ISO: 5000 Shutter: 11 seconds 4.0f 24mm
RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornet Camera: Nikon D800, ISO: 5000 Shutter: 11 seconds 4.0f 24mm

We could see we were getting a result but just tried to mix up the settings to see what worked best as we didn’t have much time between each aircraft but we knew it was working. One of the last star photos for the night was the RAAF C-130J-30 Hercules which was very well lit up and the problem Peter, Sid and I couldn’t figure out was how do we show the aircraft as we could get the stars and we could get the movement from the lights on the aircraft but we couldn’t see the aircraft.

Something that has to be mentioned is that with so much happening, twice I forgot to remove the lens cap! Lets just say it shouldn’t happen again but time will tell.

RAAF C-130J-30 Hercules Camera: Nikon D800, ISO: 3200, Shutter: 26sec 6.3f 24mm
RAAF C-130J-30 Hercules Camera: Nikon D800, ISO: 3200, Shutter: 26sec 6.3f 24mm

While the action with the stars was going on I was still trying to get some night shots using the 300mm 2.8f which lets in more light than the 800mm 5.6f and still is one of my all time favorite lenses.

RSAF F-15SG Camera: Nikon D5, ISO: 2500, Shutter: 1/500th, 2.8f 300mm
RSAF F-15SG Camera: Nikon D5, ISO: 2500, Shutter: 1/500th, 2.8f 300mm
QANTAS 737-800 Camera: Nikon D5, ISO: 2500, Shutter: 1/500th, 2.8f 300mm
QANTAS 737-800 Camera: Nikon D5, ISO: 2500, Shutter: 1/500th, 2.8f 300mm

Wednesday Night

We headed back to our spot on the base side south eastern end to get the take offs as this time they were launching away from us to the north. This spot is 1130m from the launch spot which is still a great distance to try and get a photo but you work with what you have. I really didn’t know if I would get anything that could be used at this distance but it’s worth a try.

RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornets. Camera: Nikon D5, ISO: 16,000 Shutter: 1/200th, 5.6f 800mm
RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornets. Camera: Nikon D5, ISO: 16,000 Shutter: 1/200th, 5.6f 800mm
RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornets. Camera: Nikon D5, ISO: 3200 Shutter: 1/400th, 5.6f 800mm
RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornets. Camera: Nikon D5, ISO: 3200 Shutter: 1/400th, 5.6f 800mm

While most of the action was takeoffs there were a few arrivals that came in like this RAAF AP-3C Orion. I found all of the military aircraft hard to get a focus lock on but the easiest way is to focus on the front wheel light.

RAAF AP-3C Orion Camera: Nikon D5, ISO: 16,000 Shutter: 1/200th 5.6f 800mm
RAAF AP-3C Orion Camera: Nikon D5, ISO: 16,000 Shutter: 1/200th 5.6f 800mm

Once all the launches were done we moved back to the same spot straight under the center line with a new plan of attack to see if we could get any more of the aircraft profile in the picture. Another element just to make it harder was the moon was becoming more brighter and higher in the sky which would lighten the sky darkness meaning shorter exposures. Our plan tonight was to try and fire two other cameras at the same time to use their flash to lit up the profile of the aircraft at the end of the exposure. Leigh and Peter used their DSLR’s to add flash to the shot and it was awesome to just see the teamwork between everyone in trying to get this photo to work. Sid was making sure us non locals didn’t dehydrate by keeping up the level of cold fluids at all times. While all this was going on I was still trying to get a better head on shot of each aircraft. Something which was really starting to stand out in the photos was the amount of dust in the air from all the down wash off each aircraft. Once the RSAF F-15SG’s had flown over it would take a few minutes for most of the dust particles to clear.

RAAF KC-30A Camera: Nikon D5, ISO: 3200, Shutter: 1/500th 5.6f 800mm
RAAF KC-30A Camera: Nikon D5, ISO: 3200, Shutter: 1/500th 5.6f 800mm
RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornet Camera: Nikon D5, ISO: 3200, Shutter: 1/500th 5.6f 800mm
RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornet Camera: Nikon D5, ISO: 3200, Shutter: 1/500th 5.6f 800mm
RSAF F-15SG Camera: Nikon D800, ISO: 5000, Shutter: 8 seconds 2.8f 24mm
RSAF F-15SG Camera: Nikon D800, ISO: 5000, Shutter: 8 seconds 2.8f 24mm
RSAF KC-135R Camera: Nikon D800, ISO: 5000, Shutter: 4 seconds 2.8f 17mm
RSAF KC-135R Camera: Nikon D800, ISO: 5000, Shutter: 4 seconds 2.8f 17mm

As you can see we started getting a result close to what I first had in mind but it wasn’t what I wanted. I was very happy with all the settings but just couldn’t get enough flash on the bottom of the aircraft and to throw more chaos to the problem I left the lens cap on once, Peter did it twice and Leigh did it once ! You would think we would learn but we had made progress and with only one more night it was time to get it right.

Thursday Night

We had a massive day on base Thursday but I made time to speak to my number one man about anything to do with taking photos , Jeremy from NPS in Sydney. I had sent Jeremy a few photos during the week to show him how I was going but tonight it had to happen and it had to be right as I wouldn’t get another chance to get the shot I was chasing. I don’t use a flash that often as I prefer to just use the light on offer and make something happen but very quick it was clear that I only needed one flash unit the SB910 and something I hadn’t used before on the camera the “rear sync” setting. It’s just not something I have ever used so I just didn’t know about it , while I was on base some “magic” worked and I received a call from the local Camera House Owner Russell Brown who said I should come in before he closed as he had what I needed.

It was very good to hear that business was going great for Russell this week as everyone was coming in asking how can I get a photo of the night time action ?  After a quick read on how to set the flash unit up I was looking forward to this last chance because the team had put a lot into the idea and it was awesome just to see how different photographers think and what they have used in the past to get the result they were chasing.

Tonight I would only focus on getting this star photo as it was time to get the results. We all joked about the lens cap and how we had left it on enough but as luck would have it I did it twice ! It was that silly I decided to use a hat so there was no way I could forget it was on there. All that aside the only change from all the other nights was a very powerful flash unit set at half the distance to the aircraft and “rear sync” setting for the Nikon D800 camera flash. We also made sure every time we used the flash the aircraft was straight above us or past us so the flash wouldn’t affect the pilots on approach. The results on the first shot let me know the hard work had paid off.

RAAF C-17A Globemaster III Camera: Nikon D800, ISO: 3200, Shutter: 15 seconds 3.5f 26mm
RAAF C-17A Globemaster III Camera: Nikon D800, ISO: 3200, Shutter: 15 seconds 3.5f 26mm
RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornet Camera: Nikon D800, ISO:6400, Shutter: 6.4 seconds 3.5f 58mm
RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornet Camera: Nikon D800, ISO:6400, Shutter: 6.4 seconds 3.5f 58mm
RSAF F-15SG Camera: Nikon D800, ISO:6400, Shutter: 5.6 seconds 3.5f 35mm
RSAF F-15SG Camera: Nikon D800, ISO:6400, Shutter: 5.6 seconds 3.5f 35mm
USAF F-16CJ Camera: Nikon D800, ISO: 6400, Shutter: 6.9 seconds 4.5f 58mm
USAF F-16CJ Camera: Nikon D800, ISO: 6400, Shutter: 6.9 seconds 4.5f 58mm
RAAF KC-30A Camera: Nikon D800, ISO: 5000, Shutter: 7,8 seconds, 4.5f, 24mm
RAAF KC-30A Camera: Nikon D800, ISO: 5000, Shutter: 7,8 seconds, 4.5f, 24mm

The flash made the shot what I wanted but also added another major problem in that all the dust in the air stands out when the flash goes off. It is Darwin in the dry season but for our first week trying to get a shot we now have something to work with. I can not thank the team enough for putting up with me while I was trying to figure out just how to make the shot happen , to Russell from Darwin Camera House, Sandisk Australia and to Jeremy and the Nikon NPS team back in Sydney. These photos show just what a team can achieve when everyone is working together . I hope by showing the different settings everyone can have a go at trying to get some of these hard shots that most think can’t be made. If any has any questions please feel free to ask- Mark Jessop


 

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Exercise Pitch Black 2016 “The Art of War”

“Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”

Sun Tzu, The Art of War – Pitch Black 2016

Every two years the Royal Australian Air Force hosts nations from all around the globe, along with its own chosen units, they all participate in the exercise called Pitch Black.

USMC VMGR 152 out of Iwakuni, Japan.
USMC VMGR 152 out of Iwakuni , Japan. Supply beast for the Marine Rotational Force – Darwin while they are based here for 6 months, call sign “Sumo”

This year participating guests included

  • Republic of Singapore Air Force
  • Royal Thai Air Force
  • Indonesian Air Force
  • United States Marines
  • United States Air Force (Pacific Air Force)
  • France Air Contingent (New Caledonia)
  • Royal Canadian Air Force.

This impressive list along with a broad selection of Australian units meant that upwards of 115 aircraft and up to 2500 personnel descended on the top end for 3 weeks of intense activities.

RSAF F-15SG Mindil Beach sunset display.
RSAF F-15SG Mindil Beach sunset display.

ASO was privileged to be invited to Darwin by the RAAF media unit to participate in a 3 day embedded media program that covered a good taste of the different types of units & roles involved in the over the 3 weeks.

From flying units to a visit to a Mobile Control & Reporting Unit, we were treated to access to many areas not available to the general public.

RAAF F/A-18A Hornet 77SQN
RAAF F/A-18A Hornet 77SQN

The reference to the “Art of War” was made during our media introduction, given by Air Commodore Rick Owen.

AIRCDRE Owen spoke passionately about the fact that (from an Australian pilot point of view) Pitch Black is not about training as the aircrews participating already have the skills to fly. It is about helping them evolve their knowledge to better use the skills they already possess.

RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornets from 1SQN & 6SQN. A44-212 & A44-224.
RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornets from 1SQN & 6SQN. A44-212 & A44-224.

With that in mind ASO plan to bring you not just a general overview of the exercise as a whole, but a series of sub-articles that will go into greater detail some of the specific units we visited over the week.

We will also bring your coverage of what was one of the highlights of the embedded program, the RAAF KC-30A tanker flight.

We’ve included just a sample of images here to get you excited for what’s just around the corner as the Exercise was so big we will need to spread the awesome content we have captured.

Watch this space!

RAAF F/A-18A Hornet 77SQN A21-48 night launch
RAAF F/A-18A Hornet 77SQN A21-48 night launch

 

RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornet sunset display at Mindil Beach
RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornet sunset display at Mindil Beach

 

Royal Thai Air Force F-16
Royal Thai Air Force F-16 A(eMLU) from 403sqn wing 4 Takhli. Call Sign “COBRA”

 

RAAF F/A-18A Hornet 77SQN A21-48
RAAF F/A-18A Hornet 77SQN A21-48

 

F/A-18F Super Hornet wheel bay
F/A-18F Super Hornet wheel bay

 

F/A-18F Super Hornet - Star Wars is happening right now !
F/A-18F Super Hornet – Star Wars is happening right now !

 

RAAF C-17A Globemaster III
RAAF C-17A Globemaster III

A massive thank you to the Royal Australian Air Force Ex Pitch Black Media team for their assistance to the ASO team over the 3 week exercise. This is only a taste of what the ASO team got so stay tuned and don’t miss anything by following the link below to subscribe to Aviation Spotters Online.


 

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Exercise Pitch Black Control Tower visit

RAAF BASE DARWIN TOWER – Observation Deck

Yesterday ASO and some media were invited to the Darwin Control Tower to observe aircraft movements at RAAF Base Darwin.

The RAAF’s 452 Sqn Air Traffic Control, co-ordinate all aircraft movements on the ground and in the local airspace near RAAF Base Darwin, not just during Pitch Black 2016 but throughout the year.

RSAF F-15SG
RSAF F-15SG

After meeting our hosts, we were escorted via lift to the external platform of the tower, just below the observation windows used by the Air Traffic Control team. From this position I could see from one end of the base to the other and the full skyline of Darwin City.

It wasn’t long before aircraft from the participating Air Forces were spooling up engines and taxiing from their respective parking areas to the end of runway 11.

F-16B from 403 Sqn out of Takhli Air Base
F-16B from 403 Sqn out of Takhli Air Base

The full range of aircraft from the RSAF, USAF, TNI-AU and RAAF were observed departing – F-16’s, F-15’s, a G550, a KC-135, F/A-18 classics and the F/A-18F.

To keep sequencing smooth, the commercial and local civilian aircraft were scheduled to depart and arrive in between the fast jets, some waiting for their slots due to different size.

RAAF F/A-18A Hornet A21-49 77SQN
RAAF F/A-18A Hornet A21-49 77SQN

Within 90 minutes the first jets were returning, performing the initial and pitch manoeuvre before   touching down with a puff of smoke from their tyres. After exiting the runway, they taxied to their respective lines.

A pleasant surprise was the arrival of a RAAF C-17 Globemaster III, A41-212, landing gracefully before ATC made a quick runway change to runway 29.

RAAF C-17 Globemaster III, A41-212
RAAF C-17 Globemaster III, A41-212

A few more late arrivals and departures before we had to wrap up the afternoon and descend in the elevator to ground level. It was a great day to see the various aircraft movements from a vantage point seldom seen by many.

If you have never seen a mass launch here is some footage by Mark Pourzenic from 2014 Pitch Black –

 

Thank you to FLTLT Daniel Phillips and LACW Amy Richardson from PB.Media@defence.gov.au for arranging the day.

Sid Mitchell

 

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Exercise Pitch Black 2016 1st week Launch

On Monday ASO and local media were invited to join the 1st interview session, with one of the Royal Australian Air Force’s Pilots , SQNLDR Leon from 77SQN, there to provide information to the media about the start of Exercise Pitch Black 2016.

Below is the full transcript of the interview where everyone was allowed to ask Questions of the SQNLDR.

ASO is very grateful to the Royal Australian Air Force to be able to cover this and every media event throughout the Exercise. ASO will be the only media service other than the major Radio and TV stations with a photographer/ reporter present for the whole period of the exercise. As you can see, it’s still nice and warm during “winter” in Darwin with its characteristic dry, yellow grass and almost permanent smoke haze (which can make photography a little tricky at times) but we’ll “suffer” through it to bring you the coverage. ;). ASO looks forward to bringing you the action as it happens with current, on-location photos and information.

If the rumors are true and all goes well, we are also hoping to join the other media teams on the only Air to Air opportunity for media that will be available during the exercise, very soon.

Media brief by SQNLDR Leon – Call-sign “Fats”

SQNLDR Leon "fats" conducting the interview
SQNLDR Leon “fats” conducting the interview

Location was the Media room in the Truscott Club, RAAF Base Darwin. 1145 01AUG2016

SQNLDR Leon is from 77Sqn RAAF Base Williamtown, NSW (His surname will not be used for security reasons)

“Good morning all, I’m SQNLDR Leon, I’m from 77Sqn and a current F-18 pilot. I’m here to talk about some of the tactical squadron level considerations for the exercise and answer some of your questions.

Firstly, I want to start by apologising. Most people have a perception of fighter pilots as suave and debonair with cool nicknames; mine is “Fats”.

SQNLDR Leon "fats" conducting the interview
SQNLDR Leon “fats” conducting the interview

There’s a few key things I want to discuss from a squadron level for Pitch Black and the first one is it’s an unprecedented training opportunity for us – so to give you some perspective on that, when people come through the training system and convert onto the hornet for the first time they have basically spent 3 years in training of various aircraft types, but when they arrive at the squadron what does that mean?-  that means they are basically safe to fly in the F18 and then convert and become a fully operational. That process after arriving at the squadron is about a 2-year integration… so we start off with guys coming straight out of training basically able to fly around as part of a two ship – so that’s two aircraft. We work them up through that two-year process to be four ship leads, so tactically proficient to lead a four ship of aircraft in a complex dynamic environment and able to integrate into large force packages. So what does that mean to us? We basically need these large force exercises like Pitch Black to get that high end training level that we don’t get within our own training schedules. So Pitch Black provides, you would have heard the statistics out there, about 2500 people and up to 115 aircraft, so there’s quite a complex environment that really ticks that high end level training. There’s also the ground – there’s simulated ground threats which make the environment more complex. There’s also a range of simulated targets that they have to operate against to complete that training.

RAAF F/A-18A Hornet A21-51 77SQN
RAAF F/A-18A Hornet A21-51 77SQN

The second aspect I wanted to talk about is the international engagement kind of aspect, and I’m sure there are different levels of understanding for that, for the higher level of defence, but down at the squadron level what does that mean? For me, I’ve been involved with Pitch Black since 2004 and so I’ve been on a number of Pitch Black operations from first joining the squadron all the way through to now where I’m one of the squadron’s executives, and I’ve also been involved with planning and execution. But at each of those points along the way of the 4 or 5 exercises I’ve done, I worked with directly the counter parts from the other nations that have participated in this exercise so I have developed with people over the years a way of communicating, so I think from a squadron level we just developed paths of communication and develop an understanding of the people we work from coalitions and allied partners. At a higher level, what does that mean for us?  It means that in the future when we want to operate with our coalition partners that we are able to on the first day of operations or exercises is jump straight into that as an opposed to… Pitch Black kind of allows us to iron out those bugs in the communication and the way that people do things, so that we have a good understanding. So from my perspective and from a squadron level the key take away is that it’s an unprecedented training opportunity for us, it allows us to give our aircrew the absolute high end of training and it’s probably one of two opportunities we have in every two year cycle. The other side of that is just building relationships with the people that we work with or likely to work with in the future.

RAAF F/A-18 Hornets under the "carports" RAAF Base Darwin
RAAF F/A-18 Hornets under the “carports” RAAF Base Darwin

That’s pretty much all I’ve got to say so if you have any questions ….”

Local Media Outlet-  how long does the training go for?

“For the exercise – it’s a 3-week activity. There’s a week at the beginning that we call ‘Force integration training” which is a lower level of training to get everyone into the procedures so they know how to get into and out of the airfield. Then there’s 2 weeks of what we call “Force Employment” so it’s 40 aircraft verse 40 aircraft all combined in the airspace for day and night operations.”

So you are mixing different nationalities with in flight?

“So in the first week with the force integration training it’s really key that we mix formations – say we have a 2 ship of Australian Hornets and there might be a 2 ship of Indonesian F16’s and they will go out and do a mission together. So that kind of gets us to work a lot more closely than if we just went out and did large package stuff where it’s easier to stay isolated in your specific planes.”

Indonesian Air Force F-16MLU

Are there any issues with miscommunication between the different nationalities?

“I guess the basic communication issue is that we speak “Australian” English, the Americans, they probably understand 70 or 80 % of what we say, which is where we are all speaking the same language, then you have nationalities that come from varying levels of understanding English. So when you get on a radio and there are 20 aircraft all trying to talk at the same time with varying levels of English, it’s really key that we understand procedures so that is doesn’t eventuate into so much of a problem.”

Aircraft everywhere
Aircraft everywhere

How long for you and the squadron has preparations been for this next couple of weeks?

“So for the exercise itself planning starts for the next Pitch Black in two years’ time – planning starts about now. For the squadrons specifically getting directly involved in the planning for the work up, it’s about a 3 to 4 month process.”

Hypothetically what are you training for?

“We’re just training for the most complex threats, we take the highest level threat we can find, the threats on the ground and in the air, and we make that into a worst case scenario… that we train for.”

Such as?

“So for Pitch black it’s an “Offensive Counter Air Activity”, so what we are doing there is we’re basically going down into a contested air environment, so we are clearing out all the “RED” air threat and dropping bombs on targets in that environment.”

Royal Thai Air Force F-16D , 403 SQN
Royal Thai Air Force F-16D , 403 SQN

Is everyone at the same level in training?

“No, so even in our squadron we have people at different levels, so some people have been away from flying for a while, and need to integrate them back into the squadron and get them up to the level. So everyone comes in at the end of what they have been doing prior to the exercise, with different levels of experience.”

Is there a qualification process for the guys using this exercise as part of their progression through training?

“So at any level for the squadron you are able to slot into the exercise. The only caveat on that is if you are a guy straight off course, what we call a D category pilot. All of the nations agree that they are not appropriate to stick into such a large complicated environment but pretty much anyone else from within the squadron will be programmed appropriate to their experience within formations.”

USAF F-16C launching into flight
USAF F-16C launching into flight

As part of their development?

“Yep, and that’s the key so that we can train everyone and ideally put them in the next level up, if we can, so they get as much exposure.”

With operations flying overseas, how much of a step up again is it from this kind of exercise?

“I guess depending on what we go away and do, they’re all subsets of what we’re trying to do here. So Force Integration week has close air support (CAS) which is a small subset of what we do, and sometimes we go away and do that, but this exercise covers pretty much the full gambit of what we do and so when we go away on operations generally they are subsets of what we are training to do here.”

RAAF F/A-18A Hornet A21-51 77SQN
RAAF F/A-18A Hornet A21-51 77SQN

How were the participating countries selected?

“I really don’t have any insight into that – there’s a whole level of international communication that goes on to determine who comes. I’ve just got from this Squadron down.”

How do the Australian planes stack up?

“We do alright, without bias (smiling)”

Royal Thai Air Force F-16
Royal Thai Air Force F-16

 Sid Mitchell ASO – On a personal level, what made you join the Airforce?

“I can think of a number of reasons but I was working as an engineer before getting in I decided that I didn’t want to work in front of a computer for the rest of my life and I had a little exposure to flying which seemed like the logical thing to do. I have been fortunate to combine my flying and engineering background and they came together quite nicely. Very fortunate.”

Have any of your guys learnt anything from these other participants from different countries?

“Absolutely..absolutely, and part of that is when I talk about force integration, that is looking at the way we do things and looking at the way all other nations do things and developing our procedures together so that they’re better, so that we don’t necessarily  think that the way we do things is the ultimate way , it’s great to see the variety, move along and improve procedures as we go. It’s a great opportunity in that respect.”

Do you have an example?

“Just simple things for how we fly formation. Out the back we might fly an aircraft at a certain position and another nation might fly different for a reason – de-conflicting or safety, or might just be easier to see and that will work through to the high end tactics.”

Republic of Singapore Air Force F-15SG
Republic of Singapore Air Force F-15SG

That was it for the brief, after which we all drove down to the OLA to view the operations on the flight line end of things.

We were able to watch and photograph a Hornet as it taxied in, parked and shut down next to another aircraft in an OLA (Ordnance Loading Area/Apron). The Atechs and Avtechs went about performing an after-flight service (AF) which can include some fluids checks, inspections for damage, fuel replenishment and system checks or repairs if flagged by the pilot or the fault/maintenance recording system.

ASO would like to pass on our sincere appreciation of the time given by SQNLDR Leon- “Fats” in letting us have an insight into Pitch Black from 77 Squadron’s point of view.

Big thanks as well to SQNLDR Andrew Anderson, FLTLT Daniel Phillips and LACW Amy Richardson from PB.Media@defence.gov.au for arranging the day.

Sid Mitchell.

 

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RSAF OPEN HOUSE 2016

 

RSAF Open House 2016 – Defending Our Skies

ASO would like to introduce Military Aviation Photography Singapore or MAphotoSG. The Team was started by David Chua and Raymond Lee. MAphotoSG is the only military aviation enthusiast site in Singapore. MAphotoSG primarily focuses on The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), but they do travel overseas for events such as NATO Tiger Meets, AIR14 in Switzerland, and more recently the Dutch Air Force Days (Luchtmachtdagen 2016) featuring F-35B! Next on the list will be LIMA 2017 and RAF Red Arrows when they visit Singapore! ASO and MAphotoSG will be working together to cover the partnership between our two countries air forces and we look forward to this partnership. Please go and like the team’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/maphotosg/?fref=ts to keep up to date with all the action around the Republic of Singapore Air Force and the work the team does.

The MAphotoSG team covered the RSAF Open House 2016 back in May this year and here is the full article .

RSAF Open House 2016

Over the weekend of 21-22 May, the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) Open House returned to Paya Lebar Airbase with a bang after a 5-year absence. With more than 220,000 visitors over the weekend, it surpassed the organizing committee’s target of 120,000. Covering an area of about nine football fields, the RSAF Open House 2016 had something for everyone and allowed all to better appreciate the RSAF’s role in Defending Our Skies.

Welcome Arch to the RSAF Open House 2016
Welcome Arch to the RSAF Open House 2016
F-15SG Static Display for Visitors to take photos
F-15SG Static Display for Visitors to take photos
I-Hawk Static Display for Visitors to take photos
I-Hawk Static Display for Visitors to take photos

Black Knights F-16C for Visitors to take photos

Operational Capabilities Demonstration

The Operational Capabilities Demonstration featured a high-octane 30-minute display of the RSAF’s key roles. The first segment showcased the light aircraft interception role, with the scrambled launch of a pair each of Lockheed Martin F-16C Fighting Falcons and Boeing F-15SG Strike Eagles on Quick Reaction Alert. Intercepting a Diamond DA40 from the Singapore Youth Flying Club, the “threat” was forced to land at the airbase by the F-16Cs. Supporting this intercept were the Ground-Based Air Defense assets of the Rafael SPYDER and M113A2 Mechanised Igla.

Spectators on Grandstand waiting for the Operational Capabilities Demonstration
Spectators on Grandstand waiting for the Operational Capabilities Demonstration

The second segment highlighted the role of the UAVs in intelligence gathering and supporting the Army units in a ground attack operation. A pair of Boeing AH-64D Apaches performed a close air support operation while a Boeing CH-47D Chinook under slung a Mk II Light Strike Vehicle and unloaded Guardsmen for a troop insertion operation.

2 F-16Cs Taxi from shelters to position for the demonstration
2 F-16Cs Taxi from shelters to position for the demonstration

The F-16Cs and F-15SGs closed up the demonstration with an echelon formation flyby before breaking into the landing pattern. The landing demonstrated the skill and agility of the pilots in bringing these “iron birds” back to base to prepare for another mission.

Team A – Aerial Display Pilots
Team A – Aerial Display Pilots
Team A – Aerial Display Pilots and crew
Team A – Aerial Display Pilots and crew
Scramble!!!
Scramble!!!
2 F-15SGs Scramble for takeoff
2 F-15SGs Scramble for takeoff
Simultaneous launch of scramble aircraft using Main Runway and Taxiway
Simultaneous launch of scramble aircraft using Main Runway and Taxiway
F-16C take off on full afterburners
F-16C take off on full afterburners
F-15SG Pulls a high G turn
F-15SG Pulls a high G turn
A Youth Flying Club Diamond DA40 simulating an intruder
A Youth Flying Club Diamond DA40 simulating an intruder
F-15SG passes a C-130
F-15SG passes a C-130
Rafael SPYDER Missile System
Rafael SPYDER Missile System
M113A2 Mechanised Igla
M113A2 Mechanised Igla
CH-47D Chinook with underslung Light Strike Vehicle
CH-47D Chinook with underslung Light Strike Vehicle
Light Strike Vehicle deployed with members of the Guards Formation
Light Strike Vehicle deployed with members of the Guards Formation
One of the pair of AH-64D Longbow Apache providing cover for the Chinook insertion
One of the pair of AH-64D Longbow Apache providing cover for the Chinook insertion
Finale 4 ship echelon formation flyby the grandstand and break for landing
Finale 4 ship echelon formation flyby the grandstand and break for landing

RSAF Exhibition

Covering 2 halls, the exhibition was divided into 3 zones and provided visitors with a detailed look into the history, commands and various roles of the RSAF personnel.

The History and Transformation zone brought visitors back to the formation of the SADC following the British withdrawal, and its subsequent change to the current RSAF in 1975. Covering 48 years, the information boards highlighted key moments in the RSAF’s transformation from a 1st Generation to a 3rd Generation air force.

RSAF Recruitment booth
RSAF Recruitment booth
Three generations of history and transformation of the RSAF exhibit
Three generations of history and transformation of the RSAF exhibit
RSAF and Singapore Polytechnic joint collaboration flight simulator
RSAF and Singapore Polytechnic joint collaboration flight simulator
Singapore Youth Flying Club booth
Singapore Youth Flying Club booth
RSAF Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Missions exhibit
RSAF Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Missions exhibit
RSAF Social Media booth
RSAF Social Media booth

The Full Spectrum and Integrated Capabilities zone focused on the RSAF as a fully ready professional force which is integrated and capable of full spectrum operations. Visitors were able to experience aircraft and weapon system simulators and also understand about the RSAF’s key overseas operations and exercises.

The last zone was focused on the People and Commitment of the RSAF and highlighted the accomplishments and commitment to the nation’s defence. The RSAF also used community outreach programs and social media platforms as a means of connecting with the public. An appreciation corner was setup for visitors to pen down words of encouragement and support to RSAF personnel.

Static Displays

Visitors were able to get up close and personal in the static display area with 20 types of aircraft and weapon systems. Aircraft on display included the Boeing F-15SG, a Black Knight F-16C, Gulfstream G550 AEW and the Sikorsky S-70B Seahawk. Other displayed platforms such as the Elbit Hermes 450, IAI Heron 1, MPSTAR and ALTaCC showcased the multi-role capabilities of the 3rd Generation RSAF.

Arming demonstration on F-15SG
Arming demonstration on F-15SG
Crowd fascinated by the F-15SG arming demonstrations
Crowd fascinated by the F-15SG arming demonstrations
AS332 Super Puma
AS332 Super Puma
Fokker 50 Maritime Patrol Aircraft
Fokker 50 Maritime Patrol Aircraft
ALTaCC (Air Land Tactical Control Centre)
ALTaCC (Air Land Tactical Control Centre)

 

Other Events

In addition to the main events, there were also joyrides for e-balloted winners on the Lockheed C-130H, Fokker 50 UTA, Boeing CH-47D or Diamond DA40 aircraft. Weapon arming demonstrations, K9 demonstrations by the SAF Military Working Dog Unit, and freefall displays by the SAF Red Lions team also kept visitors enthralled.

A Carnival Zone was also setup for young children featuring aviation-related games, carnival stalls and a drone flying area. Throughout the day, live performances by the SAF Music and Drama Company, SAF Band and participating schools, and independent bands added to the carnival spirit of the Open House.

Games for young ones
Games for young ones
Joyride participants boarding a CH-47D Chinook while a Fokker 50 taxies for take off
Joyride participants boarding a CH-47D Chinook while a Fokker 50 taxies for take off
Joyride Fokker 50 Landing
Joyride Fokker 50 Landing
A Joyride C-130 Hercules
A Joyride C-130 Hercules
Dog Handler of K-9 Unit with his buddy
Dog Handler of K-9 Unit with his buddy
SAF Red Lions
SAF Red Lions
SAF Red Lions
SAF Red Lions

This year’s RSAF Open House was a tremendous success by all accounts, and this was highlighted by the social media success of the RSAF’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter platforms. MAphotoSG would like to congratulate BG Neo Hong Keat, Chairman, and the entire ROH16 Organising Committee for the amazing success of this year’s Open House.

As the Golden Jubilee of the RSAF approaches in 2018, the public eagerly awaits what they hope will be a grand celebration for a young air force.

*In preparation for the RSAF Open House articles and photos, the MAPS team has been greatly assisted by LTC Andy Ang and Malcolm Koh. We are deeply grateful and appreciative for their time and effort in accommodating our requests, and we look forward for more opportunities with them in the future.

Text  by Gary Ng (@clipper.sg)

Images by the following members: Gary Ng, David Chua @Robotech3142, Eric Chang @eclh14,
Raymond Lee @rayzlee.maphotosgTan Jing Heng: @mbe_photography, Alex Chan: @4lexphotography
Hanson Seah: @photograph.sy, Sng Wei Jie: @e3lipse.photography, Lim WenHao: @wenhaoakadage

About MAphotoSG.com
MAphotoSG (Military Aviation Photography Singapore), is proudly represented by a number of dedicated individuals who are passionate about military aviation. Through our photography, we have captured some of the “first” images of RSAF Exclusive 2016 Airshow Preview,  RSAF’s 142 Sqn tail art on F-15SG, and Exercise Commando Sling 16-2. We also bring you selected news from Singapore and International which we feel that will be interesting and important to share. Our Co-founder, David and one of our member, Eric were featured by TODAY Paper (a Singapore newspaper published by MediaCorp) for 2016 Airshow featured article in Feb 2016!

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Hornet Diversion Training in Richmond, NSW

Heads Up for some action in the dark around RAAF Richmond Tuesday and Wednesday.

What:     F/A-18 Hornet Diversion training

When:     Tuesday 26 July and Wednesday 27 July, 6.00pm until 10.30pm

Where:     Royal Australian Air Force Base Richmond, New South Wales and surrounding airspace

RAAF F/A-18A Hornet A21-49 77SQN 70th Anniversary scheme
RAAF F/A-18A Hornet A21-49 77SQN 70th Anniversary scheme

Up to eight F/A-18A/B Hornet aircraft will be conducting divert training to Royal Australian Air Force Base Richmond 26 to 27 July 2016.

The aircraft will depart Royal Australian Air Force Base Williamtown at approximately 6.00pm and will conduct an instrument approach at Royal Australian Air Force Base Richmond before returning to Williamtown at approximately 10.30pm. The aircraft will individually depart the base in 15 minute intervals.

RAAF F/A-18A Hornet A21-29 75SQN "Top Hat" scheme
RAAF F/A-18A Hornet A21-29 75SQN “Top Hat” scheme

Noise management and environment impact are vital considerations in the planning and conduct of military flying.

Air Force appreciates the support it receives from the Richmond community during this flying activity.

RAAF F/A-18B Hornet A21-116 2OCU SQN
RAAF F/A-18B Hornet A21-116 2OCU SQN

Information on aircraft noise and current flying activities is available at www.defence.gov.au/aircraftnoise or by calling 1300 DEFENCE (1300 333 362) and asking to be connected to Royal Australian Air Force Base Williamtown.

All flying is subject to change due to operational requirements.

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Night flying as international forces prepare for Exercise Pitch Black

Exercise Pitch Black is taking shape right now in the Top End and while the latest arrivals are already flying to get familiarisation of the Local Area Sid Mitchell has got straight into the action and it’s only going to get better.

RSAF G550/IAI Phalcon CAEW "Jaeger" of 111Sqn
RSAF G550/IAI Phalcon CAEW “Jaeger” of 111Sqn

What:  Night familiarisation flying in preparation of Exercise Pitch Black

When:  Monday 25 July – Wednesday 27 July 2016

Where: RAAF Base Darwin and surrounding airspace

 RSAF F-16C of 143Sqn "Pheonix" (yellow chequered tail flash)
RSAF F-16C of 143Sqn “Pheonix” (yellow chequered tail flash)

International forces take to the skies this week in preparation for Exercise Pitch Black 2016. Flying activities will commence from 8.30am and cease by 9.00pm, Monday 25 July until Wednesday 27 July.

USAF KC-135R Stratotanker from 186th Air Refuelling Wing, Mississippi
USAF KC-135R Stratotanker from 186th Air Refuelling Wing, Mississippi

Night flying represents an important opportunity for visiting aircrew to practice air traffic control procedures and familiarise themselves with Northern Territory airspace, for the safe conduct of flying during Exercise Pitch Black.

F/A-18C of VMFA-122 "Werewolves"
F/A-18C of VMFA-122 “Werewolves”

Exercise Pitch Black 2016 is the Air Force’s largest training activity this year. It will be conducted in the Northern Territory from Friday 29 July to Friday 19 August.

USAF F-16C of 14th Tactical Fighter Sqn,"Samurai's"
USAF F-16C of 14th Tactical Fighter Sqn,”Samurai’s”

The Royal Australian Air Force is proud to host up to 115 aircraft and 2500 people who have come together for Exercise Pitch Black 2016.

RAAF KC-30A - refueller for USAF F-16 aircraft in transit from Japan to Darwin
RAAF KC-30A – refueller for USAF F-16 aircraft in transit from Japan to Darwin

The Northern Territory welcomes exercise participants from Australia, Canada, Indonesia, France (New Caledonia), Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand and the United States of America.

RSAF C-130H 733 of 122 Sqn, Paya Lebar, Singapore
RSAF C-130H 733 of 122 Sqn, Paya Lebar, Singapore

Exercise Pitch Black recognises the strong relationship Australia has with each of the nations participating in the exercise and the high value placed on regional stability and fostering closer ties throughout the Asia Pacific region.

 

ASO will be covering every week of Exercise Pitch Black 2016 so to keep up to date with the latest information and images subscribe to via the link below .


 

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Exercise Pitch Black 2016 is starting to ramp up.

The biggest Exercise in Australia is starting to take shape up in the Top End with some of the participants  starting to arrival. ASO is happy to announce our newest member to the team Sid Mitchell who is based in Darwin , Sid is already capturing the action of the arrivals and the warm up flights before the Exercise starts on the 29th of July to the 19th of August.

The Northern Territory will host up to 2500 personnel and 115 aircraft from around the globe for the exercise including participants from Australia, Canada, France (New Caledonia), Germany, Indonesia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey and the United States.

The 1st International country to arrive was the Republic of Singapore Air Force or RSAF which brought F-15SG and F-16 aircraft.

F-15SG's returning from another warm up flight
F-15SG’s returning from another warm up flight

F-15SG aircraft from 149Sqn Republic of Singapore Air Force returning from a mission in the area surrounding RAAF Base Darwin, NT. The availability of large training areas and weapons ranges, which are easily accessed from Darwin, are just two of the many factors partner nations are keen to deploy to Australia for exercises.

F/A-18C from VMFA-122 "Werewolves"
F/A-18C from VMFA-122 “Werewolves”

F/A-18C from VMFA-122 “Werewolves” arriving into RAAF Base Darwin for Exercise PB2016, after a long haul from Japan. En-route the flight was refuelled by KC-135R from 186th Air Refuelling Wing, Mississippi Air National Guard. VMFA-122 has a history dating back to WWII including being commanded by Major ‘Pappy’ Boyington during 1943.

RSAF F-16D returning to base
RSAF F-16D returning to base

RSAF F-16D 695 bearing the “Osprey feet on Singapore” insignia of 140 Sqn “Stand Firm in Defence” based at Tengah Air Base, Singapore. Not known for it’s luggage capacity, the F-16 crew adapt what cockpit space they have, to stow their ‘kit’. Combined with the F-15’s RSAF has made one of the largest team deployments to Darwin.

The exercise will use airspace over Bradshaw Training Area and Delamere Air Weapons Range to practice large formation offensive and counter air and offensive air support operations.

A handling display will occur over Mindil Beach on 11 August and an Open Day at RAAF Darwin is scheduled for 13 August. Both events are free for the community to enjoy the many capabilities on display during the exercise.

The Royal Australian Air Force will have the latest News on their Youtube channel so like their page to keep up to date. Here is the first news video :

To keep up with all the action subscribe to ASO :


 

 

Sid Mitchell will be bringing regular updates from all the action around Darwin and the Top End.

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Air Force support to Exercise Hamel

What:              Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18F Super Hornet, C-130J Hercules, Pilatus PC-9 and AP-3C Orion aircraft are supporting Army-led Exercise Hamel in South Australia.

Where:           RAAF Base Edinburgh, Cultana Training Area and surrounding areas of Whyalla, Port Augusta and Port Pirie.

When:             Until 14 July 2016.

PC-9 FAC
PC-9 FAC

Background:

Exercise Hamel is a major Australian Army exercise designed to develop, confirm, and evaluate the foundation war fighting skills of an Army Brigade. More than 8,000 members of the Australian Army, Royal Australian Navy, Royal Australian Air Force, the United States Marine Corps, the United States Army (Pacific) and the New Zealand Army are taking part in the exercise in the areas of Cultana Training Area, Whyalla, Port Augusta and Port Pirie.

The Royal Australian Air Force is supporting the exercise with F/A-18F Super Hornet, C-130J Hercules, Pilatus PC-9 and AP-3C Orion aircraft.

Battlefield action
Battlefield action

Until 14 July, up to two AP-3C Orions operating out of RAAF Base Edinburgh will provide overland intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support to the exercise.

Until 10 July, up to three C-130J Hercules aircraft operating largely out of RAAF Base Edinburgh will fly to airfields in Whyalla, Port Pirie and Woomera to predominantly deliver Army personnel deployed at Cultana Training Area and resupply personnel through the airdrop of cargo. Flying activity to some airfields is expected to occur until 3am during the exercise.

 

AP-3C
AP-3C

Over 5, 7 and 9 July, two Pilatus PC-9 aircraft from Number 4 Squadron at RAAF Base Williamtown will conduct flying operations in support of the exercise. The aircraft will depart from Port Augusta and fly over Cultana Training Area in a two-ship formation in a morning and afternoon mission each day.

KC-30A and F/A-18F SuperHornets

Over 6-8 July and 11 July, up to two F/A-18F Super Hornets from Number 1 Squadron at RAAF Base Amberley will conduct flying operations in support of the exercise at approximately 11am to 1.00pm each day. The aircraft will depart from RAAF Base Amberley before conducting air-to air refuelling and will only be low enough to be seen and heard while flying directly over Cultana Training Area.

 

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