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Indian Air Force lands in Australia for Exercise Pitch Black combat drills

India's participation comes weeks after its refusal to allow Australia to join naval drills with US and Japan

Indian Air Force personnel and combat jets landed in Australia for Exercise Pitch Black 2018, the first time India has participated in the Royal Australian Air Force’s biennial air combat drills.

“Indian Air Force, Air Superiority Fighters SU-30MKI landed at Darwin, Australia, today at 1200 hrs Darwin local time,” the Air Force tweeted on Tuesday, July 24.

“This is the first time the IAF is participating in this exercise with fighters & C-130 aircraft.”

It also marks the first time India’s Su-30 aircraft have crossed south of the equator, the IAF said last week.

India’s participation in the multilateral drill comes just weeks after its refusal to allow Australia to join the Malabar naval exercises with Japan and the United States.

Exercise Pitch Black

The three-week exercise is taking place from July 27 to August 17, and India will for the first time join 4,000 other military personnel and 140 aircraft from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Indonesia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Singamore, Thailand, Malaysia and the United States.

India’s Ministry of Defense said on Monday that the IAF contribute four Sukhoi Su-30MKI multirole fighters, an Ilyushin Il-78 tanker, a Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Super Hercules, and a Boeing C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft.

The host nation will contribute a considerable number of aircraft, including 25 F/A-18 A and F multirole combat jets.

Malaysia is joining for only the second time since it first participated in 2008, Royal Malaysia Air Force Air Operation Commander Lieutenant General Datuk Seri Abdul Mutalib Ab Wahab said on Tuesday. More than 100 RMAF personnel and five F/A-18D combat aircraft left Malaysia for Darwin earlier in the day.

Exercise Pitch Black began in 1981 and has expanded to become the hemisphere’s largest air force training exercise. The drills feature a range of realistic, simulated threats which can be found in a modern battle-space environment and is an opportunity to test and improve force integration, utilizing one of the largest training airspace areas in the world — Bradshaw Field Training Area and Delamere Air Weapons Range in the Northern Territory, according to the RAAF.

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