Finland has decided to procure 64 F-35A Block 4 multi-role fighters. Lockheed-Martins F-35 won out in the 10 billion Euro programme to replace the Hornet. It won out over SAABs Gripen, Boeings (updated) F/A-18, Dassualts Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon.
On the 10th of December, the Government of Finland has authorised the Finnish Defence Forces Logistics Command to sign a procurement contract with the government of the United States on Finland’s next multi-role fighter: The Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II. The procurement contains 64 F-35A Block 4 multi-role fighters, as well as substantial and versatile weaponry tailored for the operating circumstances, required training and sustainment solutions, other related systems and sustainment and maintenance services until the end of 2030.
In service, the F-35 will replace the F/A-18C/D Hornet which Finland had been operating since 1992. In 2015 the Finnish Ministry of Defence (MoD) had launched the HX programme to replace the capability of the Hornet and subsequently began the Request for Information (RFI) phase. The HX bidding competition began in 2018 with the initial Requests for Quotation (RFQ) sent to the governments of France, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. The aim of the competitive bidding was to build a comprehensive solution fulfilling the requirements with each tenderer and producing the best possible capability to replace the Hornet in the operational environment of the 2030. The offered solutions in the HX programme were set up around the following fighter aircraft systems: Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, Lockheed Martin F-35 and Saab Gripen.
By the April 2021 deadline, the Defence Forces Logistics Command received the final and binding offers from all five HX tenderers. These were then assessed in accordance with the HX Request for Quotation, based on four decision-making areas: Military Capability, Security of Supply, Industrial Participation and Affordability.
The F-35 passed all of these: Its military capabilities were best suited for the Finnish operating environment and HX requirements: “The comprehensive system and aircraft’s capabilities in combat, reconnaissance and survival are unsurpassed. The F-35 came first in the assessment or shared the top score in all mission areas and achieved the highest total score.”
The security of supply is ensured because critical maintenance capacity will be created in the Defence Forces and maintenance capabilities, as well as spare components and replaceable assemblies for exceptional circumstances, will be built in Finland.
The industrial participation requirement was similarly passed: “The key industrial participation projects include large-scale production of the F-35 front fuselage in Finland also for other users, production of structural components as well as equipment testing and maintenance capability.” The contract regarding industrial participation will be signed by the Ministry of Defence as well as Lockheed Martin and the engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney.
With an operating and sustainment cost that is to fall below the 254 million Euro yearly budget, affordability was also achieved, although “No offer was significantly less expensive than others in operating and sustainment costs.”
Once a tenderer had passed these, it proceeded to the final phase of the Military Capability evaluation. In this, the Defence Forces evaluated the offered solutions’ capability in three phases based on performance demonstrated in testing events. In the final phase, the military capability effectiveness of each candidate’s system was evaluated via a thorough and long-run war game supported by simulation. The Defence Forces’ proposal for the system to be selected was based on the results of the war games and estimated future development potential. In all of these the F-35 achieved the highest operational effectiveness and was also given the highest future growth potential.
The procurement object is 64 F-35A fighters in the newest, Block 4 configuration. The procurement encompasses multi-role fighter weaponry, including the following weapon types: AMRAAM, Sidewinder, SDB I and II, JDAM-family weaponry, JSM and JASSM-ER. The weaponry is to be procured within the programme funding availability by the end of the year 2035. The weapons package will be optimised during the procurement process, taking into account availability of the newest weapon types and changes in the operating environment. With optimised weapons procurement, the system’s capability will be maximised in the Finnish operating environment and the F-35 system’s life-cycle guaranteed for the longest feasible time.
The funding for the HX programme totals 10 billion Euro. The parliament has granted the fighter programme a procurement authorisation of 9.4 billion Euro for the acquisition of the system to replace the Hornet. The acquisition itself equals approximately 8.378 billion Euros, with the cost of multi-role fighters at 4.703 billion euros.
The current Hornet fleet will be phased out as planned from the year 2025. The first Finnish F-35 fighters will begin service with the Finnish Air Force in 2025 as part of the training of Finnish personnel in the United States. The first F-35s will be delivered to Finland in 2026. In Finland, the F-35 system will replace the Hornet fleet in the fighter wings between 2028 and 2030.