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Finland chooses between the F-35 and F-18 fighters worth up to $14B

HELSINKI, (BM) – The US Department of State has issued two permits for the sale of combat aircraft offered in a tender currently conducted in Finland. The consent applies to the F-35A and F / A-18E / F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft derived from this construction, learned BulgarianMilitary.com citing Defence24.

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Interestingly, the approval issued by the State Department specifies that it is a version of the conventional take-off and landing, i.e. the F-35A. Previously, it was speculated that it would not necessarily be the most popular F-35A type, but that in Finnish conditions where force distribution and operation from field and DOL airfields are needed, the optimal choice would be the short take-off and vertical landing variant, i.e. the F-35B.

It turns out, however, that in fact a classic plane was taken into account, at most equipped with an additional braking parachute, such as that received by Norwegian machines and will be given to Polish ones. According to Lockheed Martin’s declaration, the version offered to Finns (probably analogous to the future Polish one) is to be able to operate from road sections of the airport.

The US is willing to sell Finland 64 machines, which is as much as Helsinki asked earlier, along with weapons and accompanying packages for an amount of up to USD 12.5 billion. Along with Lockheed Martin airplanes, the maximum permitted package includes two spare engines, 500 GBU-53 / B bombs, 150 Sidewinder AIM-9X Block II + air-to-air missiles, 100 AGM-154C-1 JSOW gliding bombs, 200 AGM- maneuvering missiles 158B-2 JASSM-ER, 120 BLU-117, 32 BLU-109 and 150 BLU-111 bombs. All weapons are offered with a rich package of weapons and training and testing equipment, additional fuses, bomb guidance kits and aileron systems, making them a precision weapon.

On the other hand, the consent concerning the Boeing F / A-18 family planes concerns 50 F / A-18E and eight F-version aircraft, as well as 14 EA-18G Growler, i.e. 72 aircraft in total. Together with the maximum permitted package, they can cost up to $ 14.7 billion. The planes would be delivered with 22 spare engines and a very similar set of weapons: 500 GBU-53 / B bombs, 150 AIM-9X Block II Sidewinder, 160 AGM-154C-1 JSOW gliding bombs, 200 AGM-158B-2 JASSM cruise missiles ER, 120 BLU-117B / B bombs, 102 BLU-111B / B bombs, and 51 BLU-110B / B bombs. Everything together with numerous sets that make up precision weapons from bombs, as well as appropriate test and training equipment. The F / A-18 would also be delivered with 32 Sniper sights.

Finland is looking for a replacement for the 62 currently operated F / A-18C / D. Apart from American companies, the following European designs are also competing for this contract: Dassault (Rafale D / E), Eurofighter (Typhoon Tranche 3A) and Saab (Gripen E / F). Finland plans to make a purchase worth EUR 7-10 billion (USD 8.3-11.8 billion). The decommissioning of the F / A-18 is planned for 2025-2030. According to the current plans, their successors are to serve at least until the 1960s.

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Both American offers exceed the budget assumed by the Finns. On the other hand, attention should be paid to rich armament packages (in each case, including 200 JASSM-ER missiles) and operation support. The Americans assume that if the transaction is accepted, an offset will be necessary, but this will be negotiated directly between the equipment suppliers and the buyer.

The assumption of the offset implementation could be another reason for increasing the amount of the FMS notification, and their final value may be lower, as was the case, for example, in the case of the Polish purchase of the F-35. Unless, of course, Finland chooses American fighters and not competitors from Europe.

Large-scale modernization – Finland increases its defense spending by 50%

Finland plans to increase defense spending by more than half from next year. Mainly because in 2021 financing should start for a new multi-role fighter – the successor to the F / A-18 Hornet, as we reported in August this year.

In a statement from the Ministry of Defense, it was announced that the budget proposal of the Ministry of Defense for 2021 includes EUR 4.87 billion (almost PLN 21.4 billion). This is around EUR 1.7 billion – and 54 percent – more than this year’s budget. It was emphasized that such a significant increase in national defense spending would allow to increase their share in GDP from 1.4 to over 2 percent.

The increase in defense spending is mainly related to the implementation of the new generation HX multi-role fighter program. As part of it, by 2030, Helsinki intends to acquire up to 64 new fighters for an amount of around EUR 10 billion, which will replace the F / A-18C / D Hornet currently used (and gradually modernized, e.g. through the integration of JASSM missiles).

It is the largest program currently implemented by the Finnish armed forces. If HX were not included, the budget would increase by less than 1%. compared to this year.

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The HX program takes place as part of a competitive procedure and as many as five bidders participate in it: Dassault Aviation (Rafale D / E), Eurofighter (Typhoon), Saab (Gripen NG), Lockheed Martin (F-35) and Boeing (F / A- 18 E / F Super Hornet). The procedure takes into account various factors: combat capabilities and the possibility of maintaining them in the life cycle, but also, for example, life cycle costs, security of supply or industrial cooperation. At the beginning of the year, comparative trials of these machines were carried out in Finland.

The Finns point out that the new fighters must meet the requirements related to the specific operational concept of the local air force. This means that they will have to be able to operate from a dispersed network of road sections of the airport to be used by Finns in an emergency (the use of DOL is regularly practiced in Finland). In turn, payments for new fighters are to be spread until around 2030-2032.

Finland is widely known for having a large army (up to approx. 280,000 soldiers after mobilization), with a large territorial component and modern operational troops. The local army has, among others, Leopard 2A6 and A4 tanks, air defense in the form of NASAMS, Crotale, Stinger and RBS-70 missile sets as well as barrel weapons (including Marksman system), anti-tank weapons (including Spike and TOW-2 ATGMs, numerous anti-tank grenade launchers). various types, including NLAW or Carl Gustaf) and numerous artillery (including 155 mm towed and self-propelled systems as well as RM-70 and MLRS launchers).

The navy is to be strengthened in the coming years by introducing four new multi-purpose ships in the Squadron 2020 program (over EUR 200 million is planned for them in next year’s budget).

Helsinki broadly focuses on the concept of total defense, assuming involvement in the defense effort of the entire state and society. As you can see, however, the mass territorial army or civil defense and well-equipped (often with expensive weapons systems) operational forces are perceived as complementary elements of the whole.

The HX program has been identified as an essential component of Finland’s security system as a result of extensive strategic analysis. Its implementation will force Helsinki to make a very large financial effort – to increase defense spending by half to over 2%. GDP in the year of recovery from the recession related to the coronavirus pandemic (according to the European Commission, this year Finland’s GDP will increase by 6.3%, next year it will increase by 2.8%).

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It is worth adding here that – at least according to World Bank data – the Finnish share of defense spending in GDP was relatively low, even during the Cold War it oscillated around 1.7-1.8 percent. GDP (after 1962), and since 1994 it has not exceeded 1.6 percent. GDP. This means that the purchase of fighters may be the greatest financial effort for defense in almost 50 years, carried out in parallel with the planned expansion of other elements of the defense system, at a time of unprecedented economic crisis.

Thus, it can be said that the Finns, known for their total defense, also want to bet on “total” commitment to the modernization of the army – one of its most technically advanced, most difficult to maintain, and dependent on a relatively small number of specialists and the most expensive components. And this proves that they treat the defense system as a whole, in parallel, firmly and effectively strengthening its individual elements.

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