Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Exercise Pitch Black provides ‘unique’ experience for RCAF

By Flight Lieutenant Nick O’Connor

Befriending Australian wildlife was just one challenge thrown at the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) during their debut at Exercise Pitch Black.

The RCAF’s 435 Transport and Rescue Squadron deployed a CC-130H Hercules aircraft to the exercise, providing air-to-air refuelling and transport capabilities to international partners. Based at Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Base Tindal for the exercise, RCAF detachment commander Major Josh Leveque outlined his detachment’s mission.

“Our main goal was to integrate with international partners and conduct air-to-air refuelling for the F/A-18 Hornets and the Super Hornets,” he said, adding that operating in the Northern Territory air spaced provided unique training experiences for his team. “We get a lot of force generation, a lot of training, by getting them outside their normal air space. My team will return to Canadian Forces Base Winnipeg in Canada with a whole new perspective.”

Before conducting any mission at the exercise, Major Leveque said, he was forced to “negotiate” with some of the Northern Territory wildlife. “When we first got here, I was a little bit surprised when I went to the bathroom and there was a frog in my toilet,” he said. “I guess that’s just something you’ve got to get used to, and we’ve made friends with them.”

Swapping the Great White North for the Land Down Under offered a unique operating environment in the Northern Territory, one that the Canadian Hercules crew rarely operate in. “We have enjoyed winter time here as opposed to winter in Canada,” Major Leveque said. “It’s a good experience and good training, and I’d definitely like to come back in two years.”

Flight Lieutenant O’Connor is a member of the Royal Australian Air Force.