F-35 Selected By The Finnish Defense Forces To Replace F/A-18 Hornets According To Local Media

F-35 Finland
A USAF F-35A (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christine Groening)

According to a report in a Finnish tabloid, the Finnish Defense Forces picked Lockheed Martin’s 5th generation aircraft as Finland’s future multirole fighter jet.

After it succeeded in the Swiss one earlier this year, it looks like the F-35 is set to win yet another competition. In fact, according to the Sunday edition of the Finnish newspaper Iltalehti, the Finnish Defense Forces have proposed to the Ministry of Defense the F-35 as the new fighter for the Finnish Air Force.

Citing “several defense and foreign policy sources”, Iltalehti says that the decision to select the F-35 is based on the performance and, among other things, the expected long lifespan: “The fighter’s user countries are committed to developing the aircraft until the 2060s.” However, a public announcement, with additional details about the selection criteria, is expected to come in the next 10-15 days, after the Government’s final decision. While there are members of the executive who would prefer a European fighter jet rather than an American one, the chances that the proposal based on the F-35 will be rejected by the Finnish government are quite slim, according to the sources who talked to Iltalehti.

As part of the 10 billion Euro (11.3B USD) HX Fighter Program, Helsinki plans to procure the new multirole aircraft to replace the F/A-18C/D Hornets. Five candidates took part in the tender:  Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, the Dassault Rafale, the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Saab Gripen and the supposed winner, the Lockheed Martin F-35.

In October 2020, the U.S. State Department approved the possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Finland of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft with air-to-air missiles and air-to-ground precision guided munitions and related equipment for an estimated cost of $12.5 billion. According to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the Government of Finland requested to buy 64 F-35A; 66 Pratt & Whitney F-135 engines (64 installed and 2 spares) along with an interesting weapons package made (among all the others) of 500x GBU-53/B Small Diameter Bomb IIs; 150 Sidewinder AIM-9X Block II+ (Plus) Tactical Missiles; 100x AGM-154C-1 Joint Stand Off Weapon (JSOW-C1) Tactical Missiles; 200x Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range (JASSM-ER) AGM-158B-2 Missiles; 120x KMU-556 JDAM Guidance Kits for GBU-31; 150 KMU-572 JDAM Guidance Kits for GBU-38/54 along with  weapons containers; aircraft and munitions support and test equipment.

A Finnish Air Force F/A-18C Hornet from Fighter Squadron 31 soars through the sky to conduct bilateral familiarization and tactics with U.S. Marines from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 115 at Rissala Air Base, near Kuopio, Finland, June 3, 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Caleb Stelter)

“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by improving the security of a trusted partner which is an important force for political stability and economic progress in Europe. It is vital to the U.S. national interest to assist Finland in developing and maintaining a strong and ready self-defense capability. The proposed sale of F-35s and associated missiles and munitions will provide Finland with a credible defense capability to deter aggression in the region and ensure interoperability with U.S. forces. The proposed sale will replace Finland’s retiring F/A-18s and enhance its air-to-air and air-to-ground self-defense capability. Finland will have no difficulty absorbing these aircraft into its armed forces,” DCSA said.

If confirmed, the one in Finland would mark yet another win of the much controversial but successful F-35 that seems to topple all its competitors in each tender it takes part in.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.