With some key operational lessons learnt, an Indian Air Force (IAF) contingent has returned home on a high note after participation in the biennial multi-national military drill ''Exercise Pitch Black at Darwin in Australia, an official communique said on Sunday.
This was the first time that the IAF actively participated in the large force employment warfare exercise, which was hosted by Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) between July 24 and August 18.
With participation of 16 nations and more than 140 aircraft, the current edition was the largest Pitch Black ever conducted by Australia.
"The IAF contingent interacted with various countries, gained first-hand experience of training patterns, employment and operating philosophies of their combat assets. The operational lessons learnt by IAF during the exercise will help it add more teeth to its overall operational capabilities," the IAF said in a release.
The IAF undertook simulated air combat exercises in "near realistic environment" and exchanged best practices "towards enhancing our operational capability", it said.
The IAF contingent, led by Group Captain C.U.V. Rao, consisted of 145 air warriors including commandos, Garuds, four Su-30 MKi, one C-130 and one C-17 aircraft for logistic support.
"The objectives for the exercise were to foster closer relationship between the participating friendly forces and to promote interoperability through exchange of knowledge and experience," it said.
In a variety of day and night time operations undertaken by the IAF during the drill, for the first time SU-30 MKi carried out air-to-air refueling with KC-30A of RAAF. The KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport is a modified Airbus A330 airliner used by RAAF to conduct air-to-air refueling and provide strategic airlift.
Some highlights of the exercise included exchange sorties flown by IAF pilots flying in Rafale and RAAF F/A-18 (Hornets) and RAAF crew and French crew flying in SU-30MKI.
The C-130J also carried out assault landing at Dalmare, assault operations of dropping specialist vehicles in operation area and participation in Large Force Engagement missions, both in day and night time.
"Certain maiden operations undertaken by the IAF during the exercise included IAF commandos, Garuds and para jump instructors jumping from C-27J Spartan in a foreign country, Container Delivery System drop by C-130 J, Engine Running Ops for dropping Ops Specialist Vehicles in combat zone," it said.
Over the last decade, the IAF has been actively participating in operational exercises hosted by various countries.