Australia has announced that a multinational air combat exercise that will involve several regional participants has been cancelled as a result of the ongoing travel and other restrictions due to the COVID-19 virus pandemic.
Exercise Pitch Black 2020, which is the largest air combat exercise held in Australia, was to have taken place in the Australia’s Northern Territory between 24 July and 14 August.
“To ensure compliance with COVID-19-related Government restrictions and to protect our personnel, their families and the community, Exercise Pitch Black will not be conducted in 2020,” an Australian Defence Department spokesperson said.
This year’s exercise would have seen multinational participants including but not limited to those from Australia, the United States, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and for the first time, Japan, undertake three weeks of high-end air combat training over northern Australia.
The Australian military had previously expected more than 3000 personnel and around 120 aircraft to be involved in Pitch Black, and it is unclear if the exercise will be pushed back to run after the COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed or if it will be skipped together and resume with the next iteration in 2022.
This is the latest major Australian military exercise to be cancelled, following the announcement last week that the Australian Army’s Exercise Hamel, scheduled for August in Townsville, will also not take place due to the Army deciding to focus instead on its efforts to combat COVID-19.