The Australian military is fine-tuning its defensive capabilities with war games involving its Asia-Pacific neighbors.
Exercise Pitch Black is a three-week air combat exercise in Darwin, in northern Australia. The Royal Australian Air Force is being joined by military personnel from New Zealand, Singapore and Thailand.
Fifteen hundred service men and women have been tested in simulated air combat operations and mid-air refueling missions. The aim of the exercise, the largest conducted by the Australian Air Force, is to prepare crews for hostile confrontations with an enemy. It also includes live bombing at an outback weapons range.
Security analysts say the annual war games over Darwin and the Northern Territory are designed to boost Australia's military ties with its strategic partners. In the past, Indonesian forces also have taken part.
Neil James, from the Australia Defense Association, an independent research group based in Canberra, says regional military drills are essential for the nation's long-term security.
"Australia is responsible for 10 percent of the entire Earth's surface in some form, either for defense or search and rescue or economically," James said. "That vast expanse of land and ocean has to be protected and can only be protected with our regional neighbors. Now, we are very lucky we live in an area of the world, at least in our immediate region, where there is no foreseeable military threat. But who is to say what might happen 30 years in the future in the wider Asia-Pacific region?"
Exercise Pitch Black concludes this week.
Australian troops also recently participated in one of the world's largest military drills, run by the United States off the coast of Hawaii. Other regional war games have also included drills in Papua New Guinea.
Australia has a relatively small but technologically advanced armed force. Its troops are deployed in Afghanistan and as peacekeepers in East Timor, the Solomon Islands and the Middle East.