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23 Nov 2023

Australia's Exercise Black Dagger concludes at RAAF Base Townsville

Australia's Exercise Black Dagger concludes at RAAF Base Townsville
Australian Department of Defence Image
Australian Department of Defence Press Release

Exercise Black Dagger, the culminating activity for the 72 joint terminal attack controller (JTAC) course, has successfully concluded at RAAF Base Townsville.

The exercise kicked off in early November and required students to coordinate the live and simulated employment of aircraft and ordnance in air-to-ground scenarios.

Exercise Director and Commanding Officer of 4 Squadron, Wing Commander Steven Duffy, said Exercise Black Dagger consolidated everything the JTAC students had learnt throughout the course.

“Black Dagger saw the students draw from six weeks of training in close air support missions, and they were assessed from their planning and briefing to their controlling and reporting,” Wing Commander Duffy said.

“The exercise ensured that the JTACs are ready to call in weapons strikes from air combat aircraft, as well as artillery units and other ground fire, in support of the joint force.”

4 Squadron also deployed the Pilatus PC-21 aircraft, and the exercise was supported by F/A-18F Super Hornet aircraft from 1 Squadron as well as Army elements.

For the first time, personnel from the Republic of Singapore Air Force and Philippine Air Force took part in the exercise – in an observer capacity.

The observers spent a week watching ground activity at the Townsville Field Training Area as well as 1 and 4 Squadron aircraft involvement.

Wing Commander Duffy said international observer participation was beneficial to overall outcomes.

“The interaction was very much a two-way street, with all parties sharing their own knowledge and gaining from the engagement with each other,” Wing Commander Duffy said.

“We very much welcomed what the observers brought to the table and it can only benefit us in the future.” 

Commanding Officer of 1 Squadron, Wing Commander Sean Hamilton, said Exercise Black Dagger provided an excellent opportunity to practice armament procedures and close air support to contribute to the joint force.

“The F/A-18F is well suited to close air support due to its two-seat crew and large payload. Black Dagger provides an opportunity for our air combat group aircrew and ADF JTACs to build close working relationships and enhance our collective effectiveness,” Wing Commander Hamilton said.

For Australian Army Captain Craig Macaulay, the opportunity to undertake the course has been an unforgettable milestone in his career.

“The course has been very challenging but superbly rewarding,” he said.

“I’m certainly looking forward to applying what I’ve learnt from this course - knowing it is a massive responsibility in the units that I’m going to be posted to.”

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