Finland’s Ministry of Defense has announced that they expect to buy 64 new fighter jets. That means that the country’s F/A-18 Hornets will be replaced on a one to one basis.
Manager of the acquisition program Lauri Puranen says to yle.fi that since the new jets are not faster than the old ones, and they can’t stay longer in the air, Finland needs the same number of jets to maintain the performance of the air defense. And 64 fighter jets is according to Puranen the minimum number to defend a country of Finland’s size.
Finland expects to make a purchasing decision in 2021, and the new fighters must be in place by 2030 when the current fleet of Hornets are due for retirement. Five aircraft are in the competition:
- F/A-18E/F Super Hornet
- F-35 Joint Strike Fighter
- Eurofighter Typhoon
- JAS 39 Gripen E
- Dassault Rafale
As Corporal Frisk points out, Finland has a tradition of buying defense equipment that is just a little behind the cutting edge, aiming for the sweet spot where the R&D work is done and the costs are known but the product is still modern. Finland expects to spend €7-10 billion on the purchase, of which 10-20 percent is dedicated to the weapons’ package.
Finland’s inclination to buy well tested equipment means that the choice of fighter jet is less obvious than in Norway and Denmark where the F-35 seemed the inevitable winner. The Finnish Ministry of Defense has hinted that they expect their new fighter to be able to launch long-range ground attack cruise missiles, and that they are not willing to participate in development work. It may be difficult to get this fully developed for the F-35 before 2030, so that may put other manufacturers at an advantage. (Corporal Frisk’s post is a very good elaboration on this argument.)
The Finnish message that the old fighter jets will be replaced by a similar number of new ones is in contrast to the Danish decision to replace 44 old F-16s with only 27 F-35s. The Danish assumption is that the new planes need less maintenance, so they can deliver more flight hours per year.