Kolkata, July 19 (IANS) At the break of dawn on Thursday, four frontline Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter aircraft tore through the skies above Air Force Station Kalaikunda on their way overseas to participate in Exercise Pitch Black-2018, a multinational exercise hosted by Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).
The fighters are supported by a C-130J Super Hercules that departed Kalaikunda on Wednesday and a C-17 Globemaster-III that departed just ahead of the fighters on Thursday, a Defence Ministry spokesperson said.
Flying for about six hours, during which the fighters were refueled by the IL-78 mid-air refuellers, the aircraft made a technical halt at Surabaya in Indonesia, from where they proceed further on to Australia.
On the return journey to India after the exercise, the Su-30 MKI will be refueled in air for the first time by RAAF KC-30A, while flying from Darwin to Subang (Indonesia).
This is the first time the IAF is participating in this exercise. The IAF contingent led by Group Captain C.U.V. Rao, consists of 145 air-warriors including a team of Garud commandos.
Eastern Air Command chief, Air Marshal Anil Khosla, was present at Kalaikunda to interact with all the participating air warriors before their departure. Emphasising on the priority of the assignment and importance of the mission in the three week long exercise, he urged them all to be ambassadors of the country and always display the highest degree of professionalism and demeanour.
Scheduled from 24 Jul to 18 Aug, Exercise Pitch Black is a biennialAmulti-national large force employment exercise conducted from RAAF bases Darwin and Tindal.
Participation in multinational air exercise assumes importance in view of the continued engagement of the IAF with friendly foreign countries. Over the last decade, IAF has been actively participating in operational exercises hosted by various countries, wherein collaborative engagements are undertaken with the best air forces in the world.
During the transit to Australia, IAF contingent will also have constructive engagement with Indonesian and Malaysian Air Forces.