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.

German Fighter Jet 




The Call


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.


German Air Force Officers



The Challenge 


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.


Linde Forklift German Air Force and Forklift Solutions

The 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.


As luck would have it, Edgar had a 12-tonne Linde 1401 and an 8-tonne 396 series that his team were in the process of refurbishing to sell. They prioritised these two trucks and got to work fixing and servicing them ready for use.


They also had access to a 16-tonne Linde 358 series. This was great news, but it was an older truck and would require a lot more work than the other two to get up to standard.


“The officer came to check on the progress of the Linde 358 a few days before it was due and asked if it would be ready in time. I assured him it would.”


And true to his word, it was.


“We worked overtime right up until the day before it was due to go to the Germans.”

Exercise Pitch Black Officers 

The Service 


Unsurprisingly Matthias had nothing but great things to say about the service that he received from Edgar and the Forklift Solutions team, “That was an exceptionally good cooperation. Completely smooth and uncomplicated. Whenever we needed something, Edgar and Silke were there for us.”


And perhaps it’s also no surprise that Matthias found more than just forklifts to talk about with Edgar and Silke, “The fact that they also come from Germany was the icing on the cake.
So we were able to talk professionally not only about forklift trucks but also about German beer.”


Edgar was proud of the work that he and his team put in and the outcome that they delivered to Matthias and the German Air Force.


“I was proud that as a German business I could supply German machines to the German defence. It was a pleasant experience, not only dealing with the Air Force but being a part of the Pitch Black operation.”


When asked if they’d be returning again, Lieutenant Colonel Matthias Boehnke told us,

“We have already been invited by our Australian friends. And yes, we plan to come again in 2024.”


And no doubt, he’ll be in touch with Edgar to organise some Linde forklifts and perhaps even a German pint. 


operation pitch black origami planes