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Exercise Pitch Black, Pegase 2022 trialling France’s force projection capabilities

Exercise Pitch Black, Pegase 2022 trialling France’s force projection capabilities

Exercise Pitch Black forms a crucial element to France’s Pegase 2022, a three-stage trial of the French Air and Space Force’s projection capabilities in the region.

Exercise Pitch Black forms a crucial element to France’s Pegase 2022, a three-stage trial of the French Air and Space Force’s projection capabilities in the region.

Having touched down in Australia this week for Exercise Pitch Black, France’s Armée de l'Air et de l'Espace (Air and Space Force) has taken off, completing their first patrol alongside the German Luftwaffe.

As part of the exercise, France deployed three Dassault Rafales, a tanker, as well as a New Caledonian Casa CN-235.

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The Rafales are scheduled to complete two take-offs a day over the coming week to familiarise themselves with Australian airspace, with two of the Rafales successfully teaming with two Luftwaffe Eurofighters during a patrol.

As part of Exercise Pitch Black, which runs from the 19th of August to the 8th of September, France’s Air and Space Force will have the opportunity to fly with each of the other 16 nations present at the exercise.

Participants include Australia, France, Germany, Canada, Indonesia, India, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, the United States, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Korea, New Caledonia, the Philippines and the Netherlands.

Exercise Pitch Black forms a core of the French Air and Space Force’s Pegase 2022 deployment, trialling France’s power projection capabilities in the Indo-Pacific between the 10th of August and the 18th of September.

According to Air Recognition, Pegase 2022 is conducted across three phases.

  • Dubbed Henri Brown, phase one trialled the nation’s projection capabilities deploying three Rafales, two A330s and two A400Ms from France to New Caledonia in less than 72 hours.
  • The second phase consists of the Australian-based Exercise Pitch Black, consisting of 150 aviators.
  • Phase three entails the staged return to France, collaborating with key regional stakeholders throughout the journey.

In welcoming the French detachment to Australia, the RAAF met the contingent over the Coral Sea on 17 August 2022, after Dassault Rafale fighters and a multi-role tanker transport aircraft deployed from France for the 16,000-kilometre journey.

RAAF No. 6 Squadron EA-18G Growlers met the FASF contingent between New Caledonia and Australia, welcoming the platforms to the region for key multinational training exercises, including Exercise Pitch Black.

Commander Air Combat Group, Air Commodore Tim Alsop lauded the “rapid” 36-hour deployment of air combat capability at short notice.  

“The capability to rapidly deploy with a small but potent force demonstrates the RAAF’s ability of project power and respond efficiently at short notice,” AIRCDRE Alsop said.

“It was a fantastic opportunity for our Growler aircraft to join the French Dassault Rafale aircraft for the last leg of their journey to Australia.”

AIRCDRE Alsop went on to note the importance of further strengthening bilateral defence ties between Australia and France, as part of a shared commitment to regional stability.

“We are committed to ensuring a stable, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region, and will continue to work closely with our coalition partners,” AIRCDRE Alsop added.

RAAF and FASF aircraft are expected to continue engaging over the next few weeks during  Exercise Pitch Black 22 in the Top End, scheduled to conclude on 8 September.

The exercise involves over 100 aircraft and 2,500 personnel from 17 different nations.

The multinational training activity is designed to enhance interoperability and defence relationships between the participating nations.

[Related: Top End welcomes F-22 Raptors .]

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