Finland is reportedly set to choose Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets in an $ 11 billion tender to replace its aging fleet of FA-18 fighter jets.
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The Finnish Air Force (FAF) has proposed to the government that the F-35 be chosen as the country’s next fighter jet after evaluating candidates for the HX competition, Finnish media Iltalehti reported on Sunday.
Finland reportedly set to choose F-35 fighter jets in its $ 11 billion tender to replace soon-to-be-obsolete warplanes that are a key defense pillar for Russia’s neighbor https: // t.co/Sv5F1OqZKc
– Bloomberg (@company) December 5, 2021
The F-35, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, is one of five planes launched in Finland, along with the Saab Gripen, Boeing’s Super-Hornet, Eurofighter and the French Rafale. According to Iltalehti, who cited a number of anonymous defense and security policy sources, a fleet of F-35s will be purchased because of their superior capacity and longer life.
The proposed package for Finland was approved by the US State Department in October 2020. It includes up to 64 F-35As, as well as a set of miscellaneous armaments, spares and logistics, training and support systems.
Finland has allowed manufacturers to build sets of planes and weapons that best meet the operational requirements of the Air Force – and the country’s budget – rather than declaring the need for a specific quantity. planes with unique capabilities.
Despite the country’s economic hardships following the COVID-19 outbreak, Finland’s defense ministry in August called for a staggering 54% increase in military spending to $ 5.8 billion in 2021 (4.87 billion euros), with the HX competition accounting for the majority of increases.
Finland ended up spending the last five years choosing a new fighter with air-to-surface and air-to-sea capabilities to protect a 1,300-kilometer border with Russia, in the hope of deterring Russian aggression. The planes will replace 64 Boeing F / A-18 Hornets which will be phased out between 2025 and 2030, with the new fighters remaining in service until the 2060s.
Tense relations with Russia
Despite its long, strained and often openly controversial relationship with Moscow, Helsinki was nonetheless linked in many ways to the Soviet Union throughout the Cold War by the 1948 Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance.
Since the 1990s, the country has moved closer to NATO and the West. There have even been talks about Finland joining the alliance in the future, drawing harsh condemnation and threats from the Russian leadership.
Considering its distance from Russia, the Finnish Air Force would need to send as many fighter jets into the air as quickly and efficiently as possible in the event of a major clash between the two nations.
This would protect them from ranged strikes on Kuopio and Rovaniemi, which would undoubtedly be primary targets, military analysts said. Considering these factors, the Air Force regularly conducted exercises to use highways as runways to prepare for a worst-case scenario.
Finland is an officially neutral country that is not a member of NATO, but maintains close ties with the organization. By choosing Lockheed Martin fighter jets, the Nordic country may be aligned with the United States for decades to come, with industry cooperation contributing nearly a third of the order price.
Why the F-35 fighter plane?
The F-35A represents a possible technical breakthrough for Finland, as its combination of stealth and superior sensors allow it to safely infiltrate hostile airspace and, potentially, to detect and attack enemy jets before they fly. be spotted back.
In addition, the F-35 is also in service with the Norwegian Air Force, has apparently been designed and tested to perform well in cold weather.
In early 2020, all five of the HX Challenge competitors completed cold weather trials in Finland, the results of which are still unknown. Project manager Lauri Puranen, however, cast doubt in an interview, noting that only two of the four expected F-35 stealth jets had arrived for inspection, with one of them breaking down and unable to participate in testing. .
He also pointed out that Saab’s Gripen-E jet is still in prototype mode, so it has a long way to go in terms of system integration compared to its competition. Puranen also indicated that the FAF believes its next fighter will allow Finnish pilots to achieve a 10: 1 fatality rate in air-to-air combat in the event of a future conflict.
The FAF’s combat capability currently includes 55 improved FA-18Cs and seven two-seater FA-18Ds assigned to Fighter Squadrons 31 and 11, respectively, based in central and northern Finland. In the event of a crisis, a third BAE Hawk training squadron could serve as a light assault aircraft.
YhteensÃ¤ 32 F / A-18 Hornet -monitoimihÃ¤vittÃ¤jÃ¤Ã¤ osoitti Puolustusvoimain lippujuhlan pÃ¤ivÃ¤n kunniaksi Ilmavoimien valmiutta puolustaa koko Suomea. Kahdeksassa neljÃ¤n koneen parvessa lentÃ¤neet Hornetit ylittivÃ¤t useita paikkakuntia HelsingistÃ¤ Ivaloon. #ilmavoimat #valmius pic.twitter.com/RxxsyPBsUn
– Ilmavoimat (@FinnishAirForce) June 4, 2020
Finland has deployed its Hornets to chase Russian planes near its land and sea borders on several occasions in recent years, accusing them of violating its sovereign airspace. Finland also had to deal with Russian GPS jamming, as well as other Russian offensive maneuvers.
As a result, whatever aircraft Finland purchases must be able to fight Russian air defenses, making stealth the most important consideration. Considering these factors, the F-35 will be the most suitable choice for Finland.