For over 40 years the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has been running Exercise Pitch Black in Darwin. The largest exercise of its kind in Australia, over 15 countries, up to 100 aircraft and 2,500 people participate in the biennial event, which features simulated scenarios to prepare the militaries for a modern battle environment.
This year, the German Air Force joined the exercise for the first time. Lieutenant Colonel Matthias Boehnke explained,
“Germany adopted an Indo-Pacific strategy two years ago. Pitch Black is an excellent opportunity for us to be able to exercise in exceptional airspace and to do so with 16 other nations. Among them are nations with which we do not normally exercise, such as India, Australia, Singapore or Japan. This opportunity lets us learn a lot from one another.”
As part of their setup and pack down for the exercise, each Air Force needs several forklifts, and for the Germans their go-to is of course, Linde Material Handling.
In July, just 4 weeks out from Pitch Black, the German Air Force reached out to their Linde Germany contact to arrange short-term forklift hire in Australia.
Having not participated in the exercise previously and being unfamiliar with the Australian landscape, the enormity of this task within the short timeframe was not realised by Lieutenant Colonel Boehnke or anyone else within the German military.
Back in Australia, a call from Linde’s International Key Account team to Linde HQ set the wheels in motion for a very big task that would see people from across the country and across the world work together to turn a big challenge into an exciting and rewarding opportunity.
Once they arrived in Darwin, the German Air Force would have more than 200 tonnes of material to move, including a fighter plane engine and over 50 sea containers, so they needed some heavy lifters for the job.
Specifically, they needed a 16-tonne, a 12-tonne, and an 8-tonne truck serviced and ready at the RAAF Base in Darwin, all within 4 weeks.
The challenge was not only the tight timeframe, but that Linde Australia doesn’t have a warehouse in Darwin. This meant it was up to local dealer Edgar Junkhoff and his business Forklift Solutions to step in and take on the challenge.
“We received a machinery request with very strange specs, so at first we weren’t sure if it was serious.”
Rental of such large equipment for a short term is unusual.
Edgar, who is a German native himself, spoke directly with Matthias Boehnke,
“It was good to speak German again and after speaking to Matthias, I understood their request.”
Forklift Solutions have been renting out equipment to the RAAF and international militaries for Exercise Pitch Black for years. Unfortunately for the German Air Force, this meant other nations had booked out most of Edgar’s Linde fleet 6 months in advance.
But that wouldn’t stop him from finding a solution.
At this point, Matthias and others from the Germany Air Force were now in Darwin and met with Edgar and Silke from Forklift Solutions in their office.
“We met with the Germans in our office and they asked if we could transport equipment from another state.”
Since Germany is about the size of the state of Victoria, it’s understandable that the concept of getting large equipment moved between cities seemed like a reasonable solution.
“I explained that the freight of this equipment would be costly and could take up to two weeks.”
Normally Forklift Solutions could cross-hire with another local material handling business in this situation, however because of Pitch Black all local equipment was in use.
So, he would need to get creative to find a Forklift solution for Matthias and the German Air Force.