As the Finnish government plans to reach a decision on its HX fighter platform in 2021, covering the acquisition of new aircraft, weapons, sensors, training, and spare parts, the US State Department on 9 October gave its approval to the sale of the F/A-18EF Super Hornet and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to the country, reported Defense News.
Finland will accordingly be able to acquire the American jets if Boeing or Lockheed Martin are successful in their bid to win the ongoing fighter competition that includes five contenders.
Worth $12.5 billion, the F-35 package includes 64 F-35A conventional-takeoff-and-landing jets, 66 Pratt & Whitney F135 engines, and the aircraft’s communications and electronic warfare systems.
According to the outlet, the package on offer contains not only the current Autonomic Logistics Information System, notorious for the problems plaguing it, but also the under-development replacement, the Operational Data Integrated Network.
In January, the Government Accountability Office’s report stated that the system had 4,700 open deficiencies, such as inaccurate or missing data, system deployment difficulties, an inefficient issue resolution process, among others.
The Super Hornet package, reportedly worth an estimated $14.7 billion, includes 50 single-seat F/A-18E jets, eight double-seated F/A-18Fs and, as an electronic attack variant, 14 EA-18G Growlers.
Also offered as part of the package are 166 F414-GE-400 engines for the dual-engine fighter, Sniper targeting pods, AN/APG-79 radars, AN/ALR-67(V)3 electric warfare countermeasures receiving sets, and Next Generation Jammer Midband and advanced electronic attack kits for the EA-18G.
News of the US State Department decision comes as the two American offerings vie with rival bidders in a multinational contest that also includes France’s Dassault Rafale, the British-made Eurofighter Typhoon and the Swedish Saab Gripen E/F.
A suite of munitions for the aircraft is included in the offers, such as 500 Small Diameter Bomb II weapons, 150 AIM-9X missiles, 200 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range weapons, Joint Standoff Weapons, Joint Direct Attack Munition kits. The latter are capable of transferring “dumb bombs” into precision-guided weapons.
Finally, the package contains varied test and support gear intended to cover issues of training and maintenance.
In the wake of the notification by the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency, Finland’s Ministry of Defence released a statement that reads:
“The announcement of the notification procedure does not constitute a procurement decision by Finland, as the decision to procure multi-role fighters will be made by the Government in 2021.”
The statement also underscored that the types and quantities of fighter jets and weapons that are outlined in the notification refer to what the US administration is currently prepared to sell to Finland, with the procurement process still ongoing.
As for the price of the packages on offer, Finland emphasised that they exceed the $12 billion budget set by the country for the entire cost of its HX Fighter Programme.
“In the FMS procedure, the quantities and prices proposed for approval are generally set higher than what the purchasing country has indicated in its own request. The purpose of this formality is to avoid the need to submit a new and time-consuming Congressional Notification in the event that the purchasing country makes changes to the procurement package,” says the statement of the Finnish Defence Ministry.
Finland had earlier issued a formal notification to all candidates bidding for its multibillion-dollar fighter programme, urging them to adhere to the prescribed budget ceiling.
“We do not envisage that we will see withdrawals because of the revised request for quotations. We expect no change there,” Lauri Puranen, who directs the Finnish Air Forces’ HX-fighter programme, was quoted as saying.
Accordingly, all five international contenders were requested to respect the programme’s €10 billion, or $11.1 billion, limit.
As it announced a huge 54 per cent spending boost to its national defense budget, projected to reach $5.8 billion in 2021 (€4.87 billion), by 2030 Finland intends to retire its Boeing F/A-18C/D Hornets. The winner of the HX competition will produce up to 64 fighters to replace them.
The Finnish government reportedly hopes to reach a decision on the HX fighter platform in 2021.