A4 Force Elements at Royal Air Force Wittering in Cambridgeshire deployed to Australia supporting the multinational Exercise Pitch Black

Tuesday 27th September 2022

Drivers and Chefs from the A4 Force Elements at Royal Air Force Wittering in Cambridgeshire deployed to Australia supporting the multinational Exercise Pitch Black.

Hosted by the Royal Australian Air Force, Exercise Pitch Black saw around 100 aircraft and 2500 personnel from 17 nations train together for three weeks. Held biennially, the large force employment exercise was conducted primarily from Royal Australian Air Force bases Darwin and Tindal in the Northern Territory.

The drivers from No 2 Mechanical Transport (2MT) Squadron and No 1 Expeditionary Logistics (1EL) Squadron are specially trained to operate their vehicles safely in an airfield environment and refuel aircraft. The pace has been extraordinary, with enough fuel to fill four Olympic size swimming pools issued in August alone.

Air Specialist (Class 1) Declan McTrusty, a driver with 1EL Squadron has found working with other nations enormously rewarding. He said: “Working with the other nations has been an awesome opportunity, especially the Aussies; they are dead down to earth and amazing workers! Always there if you need a hand, proper team players! It’s amazing what we can do as a team and I think this exercise has really shown the true air capabilities we have when we work alongside all these nations.”

Despite the busy pace of Exercise Pitch Black, and Australia’s hot climate, Corporal Matthew Finnigan from 2MT Squadron found that everything had been carefully planned:

“Very busy during the peak of the exercise, refuelling 13 different nations aircraft along with the RAAF. This included both day and night shift, as night flying was also included during the exercise. The RAAF shift managers were also very good at managing exposure time out in the heat, so you were never really out there for too long.”

The squadrons are part of the RAF A4 Force. Ready to deploy at a moment’s notice, the A4 Force is comprised of specialist engineering and logistics squadrons that support military air operations and exercises in the UK and abroad.

No 3 Mobile Catering Squadron (3MCS) sent a detachment of military chefs to Exercise Pitch Black, supporting the Royal Australian Air Force during the multinational exercise. Corporal Neal Harding has been an RAF Chef for 18 years and found the exercise challenging but rewarding:

“It was a busy few weeks when the exercise got going, and we were feeding 600 plus. It was good exposure for the less experienced chefs to cater on a larger scale, a task that they adapted to very well. Overall it has been an excellent experience and probably one of the best deployments that I’ll do within my time in the RAF.”

Wing Commander Wayne Tracey commands No 85 Expeditionary Logistics Wing, of which 1EL, 2MT and 3MCS are constituent parts:

“This is absolute professionalism in tough conditions. Working in this kind of heat, and at real pace, is a serious challenge for any military unit and our squadrons on Pitch Black acquitted themselves beautifully. However, in spite of the elements, this is the essence of what we do, the A4 Force Elements not only support UK air operations, they work seamlessly alongside our partners and allies too.”

Back to news Subscribe to eBulletin