Later this month India will join the other members of the QUAD, AUKUS (Australia, the UK and the US) as well as countries including UAE and key NATO members for Exercise Pitch Black 2022.
Pitch Black Air Combat Exercise
The exercises will be conducted by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) starting August 19 to September 6. Almost 2,500 personnel from over 17 countries and 100 aircraft will engage in both Offensive Counter Air (OCA) and Defensive Counter Air (DCA) combat drills.
According to an official statement from the Australian Ministry of Defence, this year’s drills will see a return of the combined force to Australian skies. This will enhance interoperability and strengthen relationships.
More about Pitch Black
In the 1980s, this first started in Australia’s Northern Territories between different RAAF units. Australia has been inviting international partners since then to practice new doctrines, combat and most importantly interoperability.
For the first time India participated in Pitch Black was in 2018 along with other countries like Germany, Indonesia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Australia, Canada, France (New Caledonia), and the United States.
Where is Pitch Black conducted?
It is conducted on RAAF’s Bradshaw Field Training Area and Delamere Air Weapons Range — one of the largest training airspaces in the world. Usually the drills are out of RAAF’s Base Darwin and Base Tindal, this year Base Amberley will also be used.
In this edition of the exercise, Australia will establish themselves as key players in regional security and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.
Who all are attending?
Australia is the host, and others attending include India, Germany, France, UAE, Malaysia, the US, New Zealand, Indonesia, Singapore, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the UK, the Philippines, Thailand, Canada, and the Netherlands.
For the first time Japan, Germany and the Republic of Korea are participating and there will be an International Observer Group Programme which allows other countries to be present to observe the planning and execution of the exercise.
As reported in Financial Express Online last June, the two countries have elevated their ties to comprehensive strategic partnership and both have also signed the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA). This agreement allows the militaries of both countries to use each other’s bases for replenishment of supplies and carry out repairs. This will also help in deepening overall defence cooperation between the two countries.
Last November, the Australian Navy had also taken part in the Malabar naval exercise which was hosted by India.
Exercise Pitch Black 2022 is back after a hiatus of four years. In four years major geo-political events have taken place including the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, the two year long standoff between the armies of India and China, and the recently concluded visit of the US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She is the highest profile elected US official to visit Taiwan in almost 25 years. Her visit has already ignited a huge diplomatic firestorm.
In 2020, Armenia and Azerbaijan imposed a ceasefire which ended the Nagorno-Karabakh war; in the same year the United Kingdom withdrew from the European Union; Greece and Egypt signed a maritime boundary treaty. In 2021, following the complete withdrawal of the US forces which ended the 2000-2021 War in Afghanistan, that country fell to Taliban 2.0; and following negotiations Denmark and Canada agreed to partition the disputed Hans Island.
Formation of AUKUS
Last September, to counter the growing presence of China, Australia, the UK, and the US (AUKUS) announced a defence and security partnership (AUKUS). This is a military alliance and under this the first major initiative is collaboration on nuclear-powered submarines for the Royal Navy. These submarines are expected to help in the stability of the Indo-Pacific Region. The AUKUS is expected to play a very important role in ensuring peaceful and rules based international order.
Australia and the US are also member countries of the QUAD in which India and Japan are also member countries.
Formation of West Asia QUAD or I2U2
In 2021, a new grouping of the 4 countries was formed – India, Israel, the US and UAE. This grouping is also known as West Asian QUAD and the focus is on maritime security as well as strengthening cooperation in various sectors.