Russia's Neutral Neighbor Launches Program to Replace Aging Fighter Fleet

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The Finnish government has given the go-ahead to the country's defense forces to procure advanced fighter jets in line with a special program.

Finland is boosting its strength along its border with Russia - Sputnik International
Finland Prepares New Military Buildup at Russian Border
Finland's Defense Minister Jussi Niinistö authorized the launch of a special program to replace the country's aging fleet of Boeing F/A-18C Hornets, media reports said.

Known as HX, the program comes three months after a working group delivered a report on possible options for modernizing the country's fleet of fighter jets.

The document stressed the necessity of Finland acquiring a multirole fighter to replace the F/A-18 Hornet fleet by 2030.

© Flickr / Curimedia | P H O T O G R A P H YEurofighter Typhoon S Germany Air Force
Eurofighter Typhoon S Germany Air Force - Sputnik International
Eurofighter Typhoon S Germany Air Force

The Finnish Ministry of Defense said, in turn, that the current Hornet fleet is due to complete its service life before the end of the 2020s.

The Ministry referred to overall structural fatigue, the weakening of relative capabilities, as well as the availability of the aircraft's systems, spare parts, and software – factors that the Ministry said have prompted the government to launch the procurement program.

© Flickr / tataquaxBoeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet
Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet - Sputnik International
Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet

Currently under consideration are three European and two US manufacturers, officials said.

© AP Photo / LM OtteroLockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter
Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter - Sputnik International
Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter

As for the fighters, these include the French Dassault Rafael, the Eurofighter, Boeing's Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin's JSF F-35, and the Swedish-made Saab JAS 39 Gripen.

© AFP 2022 / FABRICE COFFRINIA Saab JAS 39 Gripen fighter jet
A Saab JAS 39 Gripen fighter jet - Sputnik International
A Saab JAS 39 Gripen fighter jet

Major General Lauri Puranen, head of the working group, said in June that "all of these are possible and we don't have a favorite."

© Sputnik / Grigori Sisoev / Go to the photo bankRafale fighter jet aircraft, manufactured by Dassault Aviation SA.
Rafale fighter jet aircraft, manufactured by Dassault Aviation SA. - Sputnik International
Rafale fighter jet aircraft, manufactured by Dassault Aviation SA.

Finland, a non-NATO member which shares a 1,340-kilometer (830-mile) border with Russia, will reportedly begin its official bidding process in 2017 or 2018, with the final decision expected by 2021.

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