NEW DELHI: India will dispatch four Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jets, a C-17 Globemaster-III strategic airlifter and an IL-78mid-air refueling aircraft for the major `Pitch Black’ air combat exercise to be hosted by Australia this month, with around 100 aircraft and 2,500 military personnel from 17 nations.
The Pitch Black exercise comes soon after the IAF also sent Sukhoi fighters and C-17 aircraft for the “tactical leadership programme” to the Egyptian Air Force (EAF) Weapon School at Cairo West Airbase, which saw its aircrew also take part as instructors, in June-July.
Apart from Australia and India, this year’s Pitch Black exercise will see the US, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand and UAE.
“International participation in Pitch Black, from within the Indo-Pacific region and further abroad, provides all nations’ personnel with experience in working with aircraft, systems and work practices in northern Australia’s unique environment,” exercise director engagement Group Captain Peter Wood said.
Since the IAF last participated in the Pitch Black exercise in 2018, India and Australia have cranked up their military ties and engagements in a major way as an important pillar of the bilateral `comprehensive strategic partnership’.
Australia has also become a regular participant in India’s top-notch Malabar naval exercise with the US and Japan, with the four “Quad” countries declaring their intent to deter any “coercion” in the Indo-Pacific with an eye firmly on China.
China’s expansive military build-up and its assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific is the `biggest security anxiety’ for both Australia and India, Australian deputy PM Richard Marles had said during his visit here in June.
Noting that India and Australia were now `strategically-aligned’ like never before in history, Marles had stressed the need for the two nations to work even closer to protect the global rules-based order that has brought prosperity to the region.
Referring to the over two-year-long military confrontation between India and China in eastern Ladakh, Marles had said, “When we look at what happened at the Line of Actual Control, what we are seeing is that one country (China) is seeking to deal with its disputes not through the established set of rules but through power and use of force.”