C-130Js Expand Their Operational Envelope in Pitch Black 2016


2016-08-19 According to Air Commodore Richard Lennon, Commander of the RAAF’s Air Mobility Group, the C-130J played a prominent role in Pitch Black 2016.

Our first attempt at using C-130 equipped with Link 16 on Exercise Pitch Black 16 has been very successful.

For the first time the C-130 crew have a great picture of blue air and red air dispositions.

The crews’ situational awareness (SA) has been increased enormously and their eyes have been opened.

To manage the increased SA we are training the Loadmasters to use the Link 16 picture and pass important information to the pilot.

In the past, the Loadmasters have maintained a visual scan to the side and rear of the aircraft. They notify the pilots of any threat that they see.

The Link 16 picture, which they view on a hand held tablet expands their horizon beyond the visual and cues their scan in the direction known threats are coming from. 

The crew is also able to feed information back to air battle managers with text messages.

This is an enormous step in integrating combat air mobility aircraft into a larger force package.

It is a significant step towards realizing the Jericho vision by harnessing the combat potential of a fully integrated force.

In this slideshow, C-130Js from No. 37 Squadron are seen during the Pitch Black 2016 Exercise.

Exercise Pitch Black is being conducted from RAAF Base Darwin and RAAF Base Tindal from 29 July until 19 August.

This year’s exercise featured up to 2500 personnel and 115 aircraft from participating nations including Australia, Canada, French (New Caledonia), Germany, Indonesia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand and the United States.

Exercise Pitch Black aims to further develop offensive counter air; air-land integration; and intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance, as well as foster international co-operation with partner forces.

In an interview that Nigel Pittaway conducted with one of C-130 leadership, the new role was highlighted.

As exercise Pitch Black enters its third and final week this week, the C-130J will be operating low-level tactical missions in a high-threat environment, supporting Australian and US Special Forces within the remote Bradshaw and Delamere training ranges in the Northern Territory. What is different, however, is that it will be connected to the networked battlespace for the first time in its operational career.

Australia is installing an Engility Corp. Joint Range Extension (JRE) TDL system into all 12 of its Hercules, and the installation is unique in that there are five display terminals: for the pilot, co-pilot, the two loadmasters in the cargo bay and the auxiliary crew station in the rear of the flight deck.

“This specific fit-out is unique to Australian Defence Force (ADF) airborne assets and what we have now is both a Beyond Line Of Sight (BLOS) and Line Of Sight (LOS) capability,” explained Flight Lieutenant Shaun Wilkinson, a C-130J pilot with No. 37 Squadron and a member of the Link 16 integration project team.

“There is also no other C-130 worldwide that has this system, no other Hercules has integrated Link 16 with a loadmaster station before.”

FLTLT Wilkinson said that the first operational sortie using Link 16 was only flown at the end of last week, after two weeks of testing.

“The RAAF’s Command and Control unit here in Darwin (114 Mobile Control & Reporting Unit) is using parts of Link 16 that they’ve never used before with fighter aircraft, even when they go to Red Flag,” he said.

“What is important is that in the cockpit we are able to take in the entire picture in a quick glance, where normally we would have to listen to our voice radios to try and build a complex mental picture of what’s happening…..”


For Air Marshal Leo Davies’ perspective on Pitch Black 2016, see the following:


There was the opportunity to insert air mobility and ground forces into the exercise, in terms of SOF as well as airlift dropping maneuver equipment to support SOF and then to use SOF to achieve objectives important to the blue force effort to degrade red air capabilities.