Exercise PB16: Misawa Airmen evolve capabilities with partner nations
ROYAL AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE BASE, Darwin -- Airmen from the 14th Fighter Squadron are on their way home after their successful participation in Exercise Pitch Black 2016 held at Royal Australian Air Force Base Darwin and RAAF Tindal, July 29 through Aug. 19.
As the RAAF’s biennial capstone international engagement, Pitch Black 16 allowed participating nations to train deployed units in the tasking, planning and execution of offensive counter air and offensive air support missions while utilizing one of the largest training airspace areas in the world.
“Pitch Black has historically been a great opportunity for multilateral engagement and this time around was no different,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Mark Heusinkveld, 14th Fighter Squadron commander. “Our participation has given us an opportunity to not only practice our primary skill sets, but also allowed for full spectrum engagement with partner nations and the synchronization of our strategic communication.”
Throughout the exercise, the primary training focus for the 14th FS was their traditional mission of suppression of enemy air defenses, or SEAD. Also referred to as the Wild Weasel mission, this specialized mission set was incorporated into Pitch Black for the first time and put into play alongside the aircraft of other participants including the United States Marine Corps, RAAF and Royal Singapore Air Force.
“Pitch Black 16 was undoubtedly a success for the 14th FS,” said Capt. Patrick Nolan, the assistant chief of weapons assigned to the 14th FS and the Pitch Black 16 assistant project officer. “The exercise provided the opportunity to work with our pacific neighbors in a high-intensity air and land combat environment, allowing us to train like we fight.”
To enhance this training, Pitch Black 16 is designed to exercise participant tasks, evaluate proficiency and identify future training and other actions that improve alliance capability.
One resulting engagement was the history–making aerial refueling of U.S. F-16C Fighting Falcon jets by an RAAF KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport, allowing the 14th FS to make the journey from Japan to Australia.
“There’s a lot of benefit in conducting mutually beneficial training in a complex air environment like this,” added Heusinkveld “The results are subject matter expert exchanges, host nation visits, multilateral engagements, operations and exercises like what we’ve seen here at Pitch Black 16. Ultimately, it’s all about building upon the commitment between partner and ally nations and increasing peace and stability in the region.”
With aircraft and personnel from 10 countries involved in the exercise, Pitch Black 16 also fostered closer military ties between the participating nations.
“During Pitch Black we were forced to operate outside of our comfort zone with service men and women who come from different nations, speak different languages, and who have their own doctrine and tactics,” said Nolan. “The lessons learned from solving tactical problems in planning and execution as a multinational force are invaluable to all involved.”
Combining partner forces and an array of tactical mindsets also allowed participating personnel to establish a better understanding between militaries in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
“The best part of this exercise has been having the opportunity to work with other nations and improve on what we do every day,” said Staff Sgt. James Berg, an aircrew flight equipment craftsman assigned to the 14th FS. “Working alongside our international partners has been a good learning experience. We have helped each other throughout our time here to make sure everything goes smoothly.”