05.08.2014 Saab Group
Gripen entered a new continent when the Royal Thai Air Force, RTAF, dispatched six of its twelve JAS 39 Gripen to the exercise Pitch Black 2014 in Australia, beginning 1 August and ending 22 August.
The Pitch Black exercise is held in a vast area in Northern Australia with Royal Australia Air Force (RAAF) Base Tindal as the main base, together with RAAF Base Darwin.
All six RTAF Gripen left its base Wing 7 at Surat Thani in Thailand on July 29, with scheduled stops at Singapore and Bali before its arrival at RAAF Base Darwin on July 30.
Seven countries take part in the exercise – the host RAAF, Royal New Zealand Air Force, the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), the United States Air Force (USAF), RTAF, United Arab Emirates Air Force and the French Armed Forces in New Caledonia.
Over 110 aircraft and 2,300 personnel from Australia, the US, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates and France are due to take part in the exercise, among them a range of fighter aircraft. The RTAF Gripen are joined by F-18 A Hornet and F-18 F Super Hornet from RAAF, F/A 16 from USAF, F-16 Falcon and F-15 SG Eagle from RSAF and Mirage 2000-9 from the United Arab Air Force.
Besides a fighter fleet, several support aircraft play important roles during the exercise, for example tankers like the KC-135 Stratotanker and KC-30 Multirole Tanker. Two AEW aircraft join as well, one Gulfstream 550 Conformal Airborne Early Warning aircraft from RSAF and one Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft from RAAF.
During Pitch Black 2014 participants will conduct Offensive Counter Air and Defensive Counter Air missions, 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.
You can read more on the official website of Exercise Pitch Black 2014 here.