skip to navigation skip to content skip to footer


For more than 20 years, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has conducted Exercise Pitch Black as a major training activity, traditionally utilising bases and training areas in the Northern Territory.

It is a biennial exercise which will be held in 2012 from July 27 until August 17. It will involve participants from Australia, the United States, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, and Indonesia.

While many personnel attending this exercise will have been to Australia before, a significant number of Exercise Pitch Black 12 participants are visiting our country for the first time. As well as providing the RAAF and foreign militaries with useful training, Exercise Pitch Black 12 is also a chance to strengthen the ties between Australia and its neighbours, and allow them to experience the cultural highlights of the Northern Territory.

It is estimated that several million dollars will be injected in to the local economy during Exercise Pitch Black 12, including money spent by participants while visiting the Northern Territory.

Exercise Pitch Black 12 will involve exercise participants conducting Offensive Counter Air (OCA) and Defensive Counter Air (DCA) missions being launched from RAAF Bases Darwin and Tindal. Exercise participants will utilise the Delamere Range Facility and Bradshaw Field Training Area.

Mission scenarios will progressively become larger and more complicated through the course of the Exercise, requiring mission commanders to factor in a variety of air combat roles.

Some of the roles which are practiced during Exercise Pitch Black include:

  • Air-to-air combat
  • Air-to-ground attack
  • Airborne early warning and control
  • Air-to-air refuelling
  • Tactical air transport

As well as this, many other groundborne roles – such as combat support, joint battlefield airspace control, joint terminal attack control, and exercise coordination – will be practiced during Exercise Pitch Black.

The exercise areas used for Exercise Pitch Black are some of the largest in the world, and will feature realistic threat simulations and targets. This provides an extremely useful training opportunity to participants.

Exercise Pitch Black 12 will be held from RAAF Bases Darwin and Tindal (near Katherine), utilising airspace in the Delamere Range Facility and Bradshaw Field Training Area in Northern Territory.

Where possible, Air Force will undertake all possible measures to decrease the impact of Exercise Pitch Black 12 on the community.

Air Force will consult with local Council and community groups to ensure that Exercise Pitch Black flying activities are de-conflicted with local community events.

Flying Times are available here

Delamere Range Facility (near RAAF Base Tindal) and Bradshaw Field Training Area will be utilised by aircraft during this exercise. This may require aircraft to operate at high speeds and at low altitude in these areas. Members of the public may see aircraft engaged in combat aerial manoeuvres, air to air refuelling, and dispensing aircraft flares.

Flares burn brightly for a short time before dissipating, much like a firework. To prevent hot flare discharges from contacting the ground, they are only allowed to be released above specified altitudes.

RAAF Base Darwin noise abatement procedures are covered by Air Services Australia and require military aircraft to minimise their use of afterburner on take off. Following their take off, military aircraft are required to be at an altitude of 600 metres and 3.7 kilometres before commencing their turn to the exercise area.

When formations of jets return to RAAF Base Darwin, they will conduct an ‘Initial and Pitch’ flyover of the runway as part of their normal recovery procedures. This is a common practice and assists in expediting of aircraft recovery. This practice is not conducted at night-time.

Urban build-up around RAAF Base Darwin means it is not completely possible to avoid flight over built-up areas, but aircraft are already directed to avoid urban areas where possible.

Night-time flying must be conducted after 7.00pm to provide crews with their necessary training.   

Members of the Public and Media with further questions about Exercise Pitch Black 12 can engage the following channels:

Public Enquiries Line – 1800 424 775.
Twitter: or #PitchBlack12