AirForces Monthly - February 2017

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AFM’s opinion on the hot topics in military aviation.

Britain’s spies in the skies
Tim Ripley looks at the Royal Air Force’s ISTAR (Information, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance) Force status, operations and its prospects.

‘Ike’ strikes
US Navy airpower has played a crucial role in Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and Syria, most recently underpinned by the presence of USS Dwight D Eisenhower (CVN 69). Ioannis Lekkas joins the embarked Carrier Air Wing 3 ‘Battle Axe’ to discover how crews notched up an impressive sortie tally to help support missions countering so-called Islamic State (IS).

Nordic mountaineers
For many years the helicopter crews of the Flygvapnet (Swedish Air Force) have practised flying in mountainous terrain during deployments to Abisko in the extreme north of Sweden. Jan Jørgensen joins the new HKP 14 (NH90 TTT) on exercise.

Polish MRO experts
While the WZL-2 maintenance, repair and overhaul facility helps keep Poland’s frontline Soviet-era aircraft operational, Alexander Mladenov explains how it has developed independent capabilities and gained new competencies with Western types.

Baltic patrol
Since 2004, NATO’s Baltic Air Policing has operated a round-the-clock peacetime mission to preserve the alliance’s airspace integrity. Thomas Newdick checked in with the French and German contingents making up its 42nd rotation.

USAF’s ‘Phinal’ Phantoms
The US Air Force brought 53 years of F-4 Phantom II operations to a close on December 21 with a retirement ceremony at Holloman Air Force Base. Joe Copalman reports from southern New Mexico, with exclusive air-to-air photos by Jim Haseltine.

Middle Eastern countries are modernising their fighter fleets, as Alan Warnes explains in his new monthly column.

FORCE REPORT: Wings over Uruguay
The Uruguayan Pucará is close to the end of its operational life, with final retirement planned for March as Santiago Rivas reports. Esteban Brea assesses the status of the wider Uruguayan Air Force.

EXERCISE REPORT: Honing the force
Kees Otten and Wim Das join the European Defence Agency’s Black Blade exercise.

FORCE REPORT: Portuguese Air Force
Portugal’s geographical position may be away from the world’s current trouble spots, but it retains a credible air force, as José Matos reveals.

Dave Allport reports on the world’s latest military accidents.

Coming up
Details of what to look forward to in your AFM next month.