ASO were privileged to be invited by the RAAF’s Pitch Black media team to have a ring side seat for the first wave of aircraft launches on Friday 5th August, and boy, we weren’t disappointed one little bit.

After climbing aboard the bus at 8:30 am, we were transported past aircraft starting up on the flight line and then out on to taxiway Alpha.


USAF F-16C taxiing past

Momentarily pulling off to the side, allowing F-16’s to taxi past in the opposite direction, we continued across the grass to our final position. Parking near the 5000’ runway marker, about 50m from the runway’s edge, this was the perfect place to catch the aircraft as they departed.

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5000′ marker Runway 29

Final camera checks as more aircraft taxied taxied past to position themselves, lining up at the end of the Runway 11. All I could see through the morning haze were the twin tails of F-18’s and as soon as they received clearance, plumes of exhaust and heat waves shimmered out over the horizon – they were away!


RAAF Hornet A21-06

First off the mark were the RAAF F/A-18A’s followed by some F/A-18F’s. Both became airborne well before our position, retracting their undercarriage as they approached us at various heights – some low and some high. My hearing protection was barely enough to hold back the noise of their afterburners as they roared past us on their way to the exercise areas. Noise, vibration, fumes…and huge smiles from all those present.


RAAF Super Hornet A44-204

Next the RSAF G550 AEW&C and a pair of RAAF C-130J’s climbed out past us. All three off to perform their specific roles out over the exercise areas. Both types getting off the ground rather smartly.

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RSAF G550 AEW&C 111 Sqn

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RAAF C-130J A97-467

Meanwhile, during a short lull while some light aircraft were departing on the cross strip, the RAAF media team were mingling with the media photographers asking “How was that?” There could only be one answer – ‘Brilliant’. At the same time the RAAF media team were preparing for their live broadcast stream from next to the runway –  a new concept introduced this exercise.

Next cab off the rank were the USAF F-16’s staying nice and low as they screamed past.

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USAF F-16C, 14 TFS, 35 Wing

They were quickly followed by the first of the RSAF F-16’s and some more Australian “Classic’ Hornets.

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RSAF F-16C 143 Sqn

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RAAF Hornet A21-21

Again, it wasn’t all jet action with the FANC (France – New Caledonia) CN-235 lining up and departing rather gracefully in comparison to the previous aircraft.

pic11 New Caledonian

France-New Caledonia CN-235

A short break provided an opportunity for the local G/A and passenger aircraft to arrive and depart on their scheduled flights. Number 452 Sqn was not just keeping an eye on us from the tower but ensuring a balance between minimum disruption to passenger services and facilitating the required military movements.

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Air North Embraer 170

The final waves were a mixed bag. The biggest of the RSAF fighters, the F-15SG’s first out of the gate, arguably the loudest of the visiting aircraft when both afterburners are lit.

pic13 RSAF F15

RSAF F-15SG 149Sqn

More F/A-18’s, followed by TNI-AU F-16’s and then both RTAF single and dual seat F-16’s. With the USAF F-16’s rounding out the morning rush hour we had certainly been treated to a mix of aircraft types.


TNI-AU F-16A 16Sqn


RTAF F-16D(eMLU) 403 Sqn

Shortly after 10:00 a.m we packed up our gear and boarded the bus for the trip back to the main gate. Nearly one and a half hours had passed in a blink of an eye, but what a great morning it was to catch the various aircraft leaving from so close to the runway.

ASO would again like to thank the entire team for arranging this opportunity that rarely comes along during such a large exercise.

Sid Mitchell

Nikon D7100, Nikon 70-200mm 1.4G ED, Sandisk 32GB extreme.