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    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'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.

    Eurofighter Typhoon S Germany Air Force
    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.

    Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet
    © Flickr / tataquax
    Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet

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

    Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter
    © AP Photo / LM Ottero
    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.

    A Saab JAS 39 Gripen fighter jet
    © AFP 2019 / FABRICE COFFRINI
    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."

    Rafale fighter jet aircraft, manufactured by Dassault Aviation SA.
    © Sputnik / Grigori Sisoev
    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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    Tags:
    procurement, service life, fighter jet, fleet, Lockheed Martin F-35C Joint Strike Fighter, Saab JAS 39 Gripen, Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale, Boeing F/A-18C Hornet, Jussi Niinistö, Russia, Finland
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