Pitch black a rare challenge

Published on LSIS Jayson Tufrey (author), LSIS Jayson Tufrey (photographer)

Location(s): Darwin, Northern Territory

Lieutenants Nick Graney (left) and Chad Mapp (right)  (photo: LSIS Jayson Tufrey)
Lieutenants Nick Graney (left) and Chad Mapp (right)

Two Maritime Warfare Officers mixed it with the best of the Air Force during Exercise Pitch Black at RAAF Base Darwin from 29 July to 19 August.
 
Lieutenants Nick Graney and Chad Mapp were two of four Navy Fighter Controllers embedded with No 3 Control and Reporting Unit at RAAF Base Williamtown.
 
The Northern Territory hosted about 2,800 participants and 115 aircraft from around the world during the exercise.
 
Using radar and radio from the ground, Lieutenants Graney and Mapp controlled the sometimes chaotic environment of the skies, keeping the airspace safe for military and civilian aircraft.
 
Lieutenant Graney said they primarily controlled aircraft as weapons directors in support of the blue missions.
 
“We were also doing some forced marshalling duties, which is a domestic component involved with getting everyone in and out of the air space,” he said.
 
“I love it up here as it is something different for us. At Williamtown we are involved with local squadrons, but to do it here with so many different nations is next level."
 
“It certainly creates a more complex and intense environment.”
 
Lieutenant Mapp said he enjoyed the challenge of working in a multinational environment.
 
“To be working with all these other nations is really broadening both our experience and the knowledge we’ll be taking back to the Navy for future operations,” he said.
 
“This is a totally different environment to be working in and we certainly get a few shocked looks from the Air Force members when they see us."
 
“It can be a bit of a challenge understanding all the different accents on the radio at times, but I have nothing but respect for these guys; they’re great pilots and their English is way better than my Thai, or any of the other languages getting around the net.”
 
Lieutenant Graney, who was posted to the patrol boat squadron before starting fighter controller training, said it was great to be back in Darwin.
 
“I enjoy the weather up here. It’s a bit better than winter in Williamtown at the moment,” he said.
 
“Working on air defence missions has been interesting. We just did a mission with the United States Air Force leading the Royal Thai Air Force up against Australians, Singaporeans and more Thais. It was interesting to see the way they all gelled and got on with the mission.”
 
Lieutenant Mapp said working alongside the Dutch and German ground-based controllers had been fantastic.
 
“You get to see the similarities and the differences between the way we operate, so that has been eye-opening,” he said.
 
“It’s been really good working with the Air Force. Being Navy we’re certainly the odd ones out up here, but the way things are going with everything becoming a joint effort, it’s definitely the way of the future.”