Once again, the German Air Force shows presence in the Indo-Pacific region

Once again, the German Air Force shows presence in the Indo-Pacific region

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By taking part in the Pacific Skies 24 exercise series starting in June, the German Air Force will demonstrate for the second time that – in addition to performing its permanent tasks in Germany and supporting Alliance commitments along NATO’s eastern flank – it is able to rapidly and flexibly deploy to other regions of the world and act as a first responder there in the event of a crisis.

Two combat aircraft above the clouds

Eurofighters of 71 Tactical Air Wing “Richthofen” conduct training as Quick Reaction Alert (QRAQuick Reaction Alert Quick Reaction Alert) elements in Northern Germany in July 2023

Bundeswehr/Christian Timmig

In late July, dozens of aircraft will fill the sky above Darwin in Northern Australia, signaling that one of the largest air warfare exercises in the Pacific region has begun. Pitch Black 24 will see more than 150 aircraft from a large number of nations practice in Australia. A component of the overarching Pacific Skies 24 deployment exercise, it comprises five individual exercises that are to be conducted between mid-June and mid-August. The German Air Force will deploy twelve Tornado aircraft, eight Eurofighters, and four A400M aircraft for participation.

Eurofighters taking off to the west

For the second time after 2022, flying units of the German Air Force will participate in a global deployment exercise. Participating alongside 31, 33, and 73 Tactical Air Wings as well as 62 Air Transport Wing and 64 Helicopter Wing, 71 Tactical Air Wing “Richthofen” based at Northern German Wittmund will play an essential role this time by sending out five of its Eurofighters. In total, more than one hundred German service members will deploy, with the exercise period during the summer months to be divided among two contingents.

At the end of June, the Eurofighters will depart from Nörvenich Air Base. The aircraft will take off towards the American continent to the west in order to participate in NATO’s 10-day “Arctic Defender” air combat exercise in Alaska until mid-July. On 20 July, the crews are then expected to arrive at Darwin, Australia.

Hand in hand in the air and on the ground

Interoperability is a key aspect of the multinational air combat exercise. For example, technical personnel from Wittmund will also support the almost identical Eurofighter aircraft of the Spanish Air Force for an extended period. Colonel Björn Andersen, commander of 71 Tactical Air Wing “Richthofen” explains that this procedure will consolidate the synergy effects already demonstrated during NATO air policing and will further develop the existing solid basis of trust. “All in all, this exercise will strengthen military partnerships in the region and promote mutual trust and respect”, Andersen says. By participating in this major exercise, the German Air Force shows that it maintains a partnership of shared values with nations from the region – something which has been laid down in the Indo-Pacific guidelines adopted by the German government in 2020. The fact that it will also practice together with non-NATO partners will allow the Air Force to broaden its horizon and build trust and respect with these other nations, as well. At the same time, participation in Pacific Skies 24 will see Germany, France, and Spain demonstrate Europe’s commitment to common values. From the onset, the three European NATO partners will cooperate during the entire deployment.

Formations of 40 to 50 aircraft

The importance of functional cooperation will be demonstrated once more in July when combined air warfare operations will be practiced above North Australia. Colonel Björn Andersen: “Large formations of 40 to 50 aircraft or more, flight operations by day and at night – these are things we cannot practice during routine duty in Germany. Therefore, the exercise is very important to us.” The Eurofighters will be back from their world tour in mid-August.

by Rüdiger Franz