Marked as one of Asia-Pacific’s largest air force training exercises, Exercise Pitch Black was held on July 28, 2018. Exercise Pitch Black is a warfare exercise hosted by the Royal Australian Air Force. Exercise is held once in 2 years, with a duration of 3 weeks. The exercise is normally held in Northern Australia, Darwin, and Tindal. The exercise hosts up to 4000 personnel and up to 140 aircraft from around the globe including participants from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Indonesia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, India, Malaysia and the United States and will include day and night flying.
The Indian Air Force for the first time is participating with fighter aircraft in Exercise Pitch Black 2018 (PB-18). An Indian Air Force contingent comprising of four Su-30 MKI, 01 XC-130, and 01 XC-17 aircraft, participated in the exercise. This is the first time that an IAF contingent is participating in a multinational air exercise in Australia with Royal Australian Air Force. This will be IAF third participation in multilateral air combat exercises over last three years after Red Flag exercise held in the United States in April-May 2016 and Blue Flag air drill in Israel in November 2017.
ACTIVITIES INVOLVED IN EXERCISE:
The aim of the exercise is to practice both Offensive and Defensive Counter Air combat, in a simulated war environment. It consists of a ‘red team’ and a ‘blue team’ based at separate locations, with one attacking the other.
It includes night flying and aerial refueling and enables different nations a chance to learn from each other and improve their force integration using one of the largest training airspace areas in the world.
It features a range of realistic, simulated threats which can be found in a modern battle-space environment which help in combat readiness.
The exercise aims to maximize the combat readiness and survivability of participants by providing a realistic training environment and a pre-flight and post-flight training forum that encourages a free exchange of ideas.
Exercise also aimed at participating countries in understanding and familiarization with new technology that the country might be using. In PITCH BLACK-18, the IAF tested the working of RAFALE which soon is going to be inducted in IAF.
OTHER INTERNATIONAL EXERCISES PARTICIPATED BY IAF:
ISRAEL, US, GREECE
US. FRANCE. SOUTH KOREA
SIGNIFICANCE OF MULTILATERAL EXERCISES FOR INDIA:
DISPLAY OF CAPABILITY-Participation in the Exercise Pitch Black-18, IAF showcased its capability to be an effective net security provider in the region. Navigating across the ocean, precise air to air engagement with tanker aircraft and ability to operate over the international airspace reaffirms that the Indian Air Force would always play the cutting edge of our nation’s military capability.
DIPLOMACY– Military diplomacy is an important cog in statecraft. Joint exercises as these create stability and understanding between nations, build personal and institutional links between the countries’ military forces, and reinforce political, economic and commercial, and cultural linkages between the countries.
TRAIN TOGETHER FIGHT TOGETHER– Exercising each countries ability to work with or for other commanders, operating according to other nations’ plans and orders, is always beneficial in testing and validating each country’s defense mechanism.
REGIONAL PROWESS-Through multilateral joint exercises, INDIA enhances its influence and military capabilities and establishes military friendly and cooperative relations with Asia-Pacific nations.
DEFENSIVE REALISM– Exercises as these offers India benefit of defensive realism. Defensive realism argues that national security must rely on international cooperation and advocates satisfying the existing status of power distribution and trying to maintain it.
HADR– Disasters can strike with no warning and the military is often the first respondent in any large-scale natural or man-made disaster, both within a country and internationally. An understanding between the militaries of the disaster-struck country and the relief provider can substantially reduce the reaction time for deployment of relief teams, thereby minimizing the impact of disaster.
Joint military exercises provide the necessary impetus to such an understanding and play a pivotal role in efficient aid disbursement in the provision of humanitarian assistance and conduct of disaster relief (HADR) situations. Operation Maitri is a good example of efficient support provided by the Indian armed forces to Nepal in the aftermath of the earthquake that struck the country in April 2015.
ISSUES WITH MILITARY EXERCISES:
– They are generally conducted under pre-conditions and rules, which hamper combat interoperability and give a lesser sense of the real war-like situation. Hence it may not be helpful in actual operations
– There are certain capabilities/deficiencies that come up during the exercise and become known to all participating countries. There is a risk in the ability of the partner nation to display sensitive information. Any leakage of such information to a nation could result in a security compromise.
– In present time where polarisation has a strong say in a nation’s foreign policy multilateral or even bilateral military exercises hamper relation with the nation(s). Like we have seen in the case of joint military exercise between Pakistan and Russia raised several eyeballs in India. Similar concerns are raised in Russia when India participates in joint military exercises with the US.
International defense cooperation is imperative for building our capabilities to deal with how we envisage our current and emerging role in the international arena. International military exercises are efficient tools to engage partnering nations and enhance existing relationships. These exercises actively support military diplomacy along with other aspects such as military training, Delegation visits, Technological support, logistics and combat equipment support. Besides projecting Indian capabilities and enabling doctrinal learning, such exercises assist in benchmarking our capabilities against international standards. The Indian air forces must continue to hold international military exercises in India and also participate in similar exercises held in other countries. And also multilateral exercises with an enhanced scope need to be organized in India to make the entire process of military engagement more efficient and enabling.