PITCH BLACK| Amberley crews top up fighter jets in Top End

September 8, 2022 5:19 pm in by
Local News


Military combat operation ‘Pitch Black’ has wound up in the Northern Territory.

This year’s exercise involving 17 nations, including Australia, saw around 100 aircraft and 2500 personnel operating out of RAAF bases Darwin, Tindal and Amberley over the past three weeks.

One of Amberley’s largest aircraft, the KC-30A air-to-air refueler (pictured above) was among planes to complete final missions yesterday.

The local media were invited along to experience the full capabilities of the aircraft.

AmberleySquadron 33 Flight Captain Angus says that they made a few trips North during the exercise.

“I’m a junior captain at 33 Squadron , where we house the KC-30 and I have been lucky enough to fly every second day of the exercise and it has been a great experience,” he says.

Captain Angus says that as an air-to-air refueler, other countries have brought their fast jets to fill up so they can continue the exercise.

“I have been lucky enough to refuel the Germans, Singaporeans, I’ve done some stuff with the Americans and the Australian Air Force as well,” he says.


(Photo:Australian EA-18G Growler aircraft filling up during Pitch Black operation in NT.)

The KC-30a Multi-Role Tanker aircraft was tasked to the Top End to refuel Republic of Singapore Air Force F-16 Delta jets and then topping up the Australian EA-18G Growler aircraft before helping to bring the local crew back home to Amberley.

Wing Commander Alex, who’s on exchange from the French Air Force, says that an advanced refuelling boom System mounted on the tail of the aircraft and refuelling pods under each wing allow jets to fill up mid-air.

“The aircraft gets in position and the contact is made by our air-fuelling crew from our end, ,” he says.

The French pilot says that it’s his fifth mission with Pitch Black and he’s been welcomed by the Australian squadron.

“Everyone has been amazing with me and I’ve made my conversion into the Australian Air Force,” he says.


The KC-30A can carry a fuel load of more than 100 tonnes, and transfer part of that load to compatible aircraft, including:

• F/A-18A/B Hornets;

• F/A-18F Super Hornets;

• E/A-18G Growlers;

• E-7A Wedgetails;

• C-17A Globemaster III; and

• Other KC-30As.

It is also compatible with refuelling P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft, F-35A Lightning II, and foreign aircraft such as the F-16C Fighting Falcon and B-1B Lancer.

In its transport role, the KC-30A is capable of carrying 270 passengers.

It comes with under-floor cargo compartments which can accommodate 34,000 kilograms of military and civilian cargo pallets and containers.