F-35A officially wins Finland’s HX programme

On December 10 the government of Finland authorised the Finnish Defence Forces to sign a procurement contract for 64 F-35A Block 4 multi-role fighters with the US Government.

US company Lockheed Martin’s F-35A will replace the current fleet of Finnish F/A-18C/D (MLU2) Hornets after a long evalution throughout Finlands HX Programme launched in 2015. The procurement contract will include appropriate weaponry tailored to Finland’s operational circumstances, training maintenance services and sustainment solutions until the end of 2030. 

Finnish Air Force
Contestants of Finlands HX Fighter programme included the Eurofighter Typhoon, Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, the Dassault Rafale and the Saab Gripen E. Finnish Air Force

The whole acquisition package equals approximately €8.3bn. Broken down, the contract splits between the 64 F-35A aircraft costing €4.7bn, and air-to-air missiles, AMRAAM and Sidewinder costing over €754m.

Deeper into the deal, service equipment, spare and exchange parts, training and sustainment solutions, and maintenance services until the end of 2030 will cost €2.9bn.

Construction costs for operational facilities, aircraft hangars and storage facilities, as well as runway structures and infrastructure for the procured system will be constructed and will reach a predicted amount of €777m.

Additionally, €823,8m is reserved for the final optimised weapons package and to control future contract amendments. Part of the weaponry will be obtained later in the aircraft delivery stage. Overall, the HX fighter programme has cost Finland €10bn to find its new front-line fighter.

Victory for Lockheed Martin comes after six years of evaluation during the HX programme. Contestants in the programme included the Eurofighter Typhoon, Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, the Dassault Rafale and the Saab Gripen.

F-35 for Finland
A USAF F-35A and Finnish Air Force F/A-18C (MLU2) Hornet fly in formation, the F-35A will replace the Hornet as Finland's front-line fighter. Finnish Air Force

The F-35 was victorious due to it ticking all the boxes in all evaluation sections. This includes, fulfilling the security of supply, industrial participation, mission capability and affordability requirements throughout the whole evaluation process.

During the military capability assessment of the HX programme, the F-35 hardware systems were unsurpassed in Finland’s eyes, the F-35’s combat, reconnaissance and survival capability envelope was greater than the other contenders in the HX programme.

The stealth and other unique features of the F-35, such as its sensors and networks, all supported the aircraft’s survival in combat situations. The multi-role fighter had the highest internal fuel tank capacity, and all sensors are incorporated, meaning there is no need for external targeting systems or external fuel tanks to be purchased as part of the procurement deal.

The F-35 came either first or shared the top score in all mission scenarios and achieved the highest total score throughout the military capability assessment.

Operating and sustainment costs of the F-35, falling below Finland’s yearly budget of €240m, suited Finland best. Another selling point is the aircraft’s life cycle development such as mid-life upgrades will be feasible from the resources provided by Finnish Defence Forces.

Within the procurement process, several essential securities of supply requirements and significant industrial participation have been agreed upon by Finland, Lockheed Martin and engine provider Pratt & Whitney.

These securities Include in-country large-scale production of the F-35 front fuselage for Finland and other operators, facilities such as structural production components, equipment testing and maintenance capability facilities. Finland has also been offered an engine final assembly project for the aircraft.

The essential security of supply requirements relates specifically to independent ability to operate in exceptional circumstances due to Finland's global location and the extreme weather conditions that this location brings.

Another reason for Finland choosing the 5th Generation fighter is that the programme is multinational and the number of operators is only increasing. Multiple European nation such as, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Norway, Netherlands, Poland and the UK either already or are due to operate the F-35. Therefore, interoperability and integration of tactics on the platform should not be hard to locate.

A British F-35B, the UK is one of the others operators of the fifth generation fighgter in Europe. Crown Copyright 

Finland’s current F/A-18 fleet is due to start being withdrawn from service from 2025. The Finnish F-35As will enter into service in 2025 over in the US as Finnish Air Force members train on the type.

The first Finnish F-35 is scheduled to land on home soil in Finland in 2026. The F-35 should then replace the Hornet fleet of active operational tasks between the years of 2028-2030.

Finnish AF
A Finnish Air Force F/A-18D (MLU2) breaks away from the formation over Finland. Finnish Air Force