The Finnish Defense Force (FDF) has selected the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II to replace the country’s ageing fleet of F/A-18 Hornets, and has proposed the deal to the country’s Ministry of Defence.
The decision was announced by Finnish news outlet, Iltalehti, which referred to several anonymous sources close to the matter.
Finland is yet to notify the US Department of Defense of its decision, as the Finnish government is yet to confirm the deal. According to Iltalehti, the process can take up to 10 days, and the newspaper’s sources consider it unlikely that the government will challenge the FDF’s choice.
The Finnish ministry of Defence initiated the HX Fighter Program in 2015. It is intended to procure up to 64 multirole fighter jets for country’s Air Force, replacing the McDonnel Douglas F/A-18C/D Hornets the country purchased in the 1990s.
Five companies participated in the tender: Saab with the JAS 39 Gripen E/F, Dassault with the Rafale, Airbus-led consortium with the Eurofighter Typhoon, Boeing with the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, and Lockheed Martin with the F-35A.
According to Iltalehti, crucial factors in selecting the F-35 over the competitors included performance and the projected long lifespan of the aircraft. The FDF plans for the F-35 to be in service until the 2060s, and aims to retire the F/A-18s between 2025 and 2030.
If signed, the deal for 64 aircraft is set to be worth €10 billion, and projected operating costs are not expected to exceed €250 million. This last point has drawn sharp criticism, as such costs are significantly lower than those estimated by the other countries that selected the F-35, such as Switzerland and Norway.
UPDATE 12-10-2021, 14:50 (UTC +3): On December 10, 2021, the Finnish government confirmed that the F-35A was selected as country’s next fighter jet, and that 64 aircraft are going to be procured from Lockheed Martin.