64 ‘Suomi’ F-35s secured a brand new F-35 facility near Nokia

A new phase is about to start in the production of United Europe’s stealth fighter. Lockheed Martin is offering their crown jewel, the F-35 Lightning II jet fighter, for assembly. Intriguingly, the mantle of assembling Block 4 F-35 has been passed to one of the finest in northern Europe—Finland. 

Lockheed is designing a special F-35 for an unnamed customer
Photo credit: Lockheed Martin

According to insiders, the Finnish government has given the green light for their defense department to allocate land and infrastructure. This move resulted from a bilateral agreement between the US and Finland nearly two years prior. The agreement paves the way for the procurement of 64 F-35 fighter jets to boost the Finnish Air Force, with the bill running just shy of $10 billion. 

Some reports suggest that the proposed Unit 4 assembly facility’s location, near the renowned Finnish city of Nokia, has already been finalized. The establishment serves as a crucial piece of the “industrial cooperation” puzzle between the Scandinavian nation and the American giant—Lockheed Martin. Essentially, it’s the start of an extensive journey. 

The principal task at hand for the Finnish factory would likely be the upkeep of their F-35 engines. A commitment lasting the lifetime of the indigenous F-35s has been made by both Finland and Lockheed. To put it simply, it spans several decades, presenting potential challenges for the local and national economy. 

This hefty investment significantly boosts Helsinki’s aspirations. Local politicians believe that servicing the F-35 engines will encourage domestic expertise, inspired from overseas. This opens the door to innovative and homegrown jet engine production, riding on the F-35 work experience. 

Patria, one of Finland’s key companies, is significantly involved as the unit will closely collaborate with them. Lately, Finland has invested heavily in developing and producing military and defense gear and complete weapon systems. The decision to build the F-35 engine assembly plant is not random. It’s important to recall the rumors a few months ago suggesting Finland’s readiness to take over F-35 fuselage production. This aspect isn’t dismissed and may see some favorable progress soon. 

Not only Russian Su-27 can do it - the F-35 landed on a highway
Photo by James Deboer

In 2022, the focus was on Finland’s logistical support of F-16 and F-15 engines. This stirred conversations around Patria and American engine maker Pratt & Whitney’s intent to prolong their military supplies partnership. 

F-16s are powered by F100-PW-220/220E engines while F100-PW-229 drives the F-15. Patria remains Pratt & Whitney’s key ally, and the Finnish enterprise is optimistic and ready “to be integrated into the global Pratt & Whitney F100 support network, aspiring to be the best logistical support provider, inclusive of maintenance. F100 repairs and overhaul.” 

Patria has substantial potential to emerge as a “global leader” for maintaining the Pratt & Whitney F100. Moreover, Patria and Pratt & Whitney are initiating a cooperative working group, tasked with outlining a cooperation strategy for 2022. 

Su-30 has used Khibiny EW during an interception of the Italian F-35
Photo by Todd R. McQueen

The F-35s are slated to replace the Air Force’s McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet jets that are nearing their shelf life. These aircraft are marked for decommissioning by 2030. The initial order of F-35s is slated for delivery and deployment to Arctic air bases in Finland’s Lapland region by 2026. 

The aspect of industrial cooperation in the F-35 acquisition agreement is anticipated to grow incrementally until 2030. The escalation of this industrial agreement might include manufacturing or assembling specific components and systems used in the aircraft in Finland.

F-35 Block 4 engine

The engine powering this advanced aircraft is the Pratt & Whitney F135. The F135 is a potent fighter engine, providing over 40,000 pounds of thrust and unprecedented acceleration capabilities. 

Cutting-edge engine: third stream of air may power US F-35-F135 engine
Photo credit: Pratt&Whitney

The F135 engine is distinguished by its cutting-edge technology and design. It showcases a three-stage fan, a six-stage high-pressure compressor, and a two-stage high-pressure turbine. Furthermore, the engine is equipped with stealth technology, reducing its radar cross-section and infrared signature. As a result, it becomes exceedingly difficult to detect the aircraft. 

The technical data of the engine is awe-inspiring. It possesses a maximum diameter of 46 inches, a length of 220 inches, and a dry weight of approximately 3,750 pounds. The F135 engine can attain a top speed surpassing Mach 1.6, providing the F-35 Block 4 with superior speed capabilities. 

The F135 engine also endows the F-35 Block 4 with extraordinary maneuverability. The thrust vectoring capabilities of the engine allow the aircraft to perform intricate maneuvers that are beyond the realm of possibility for most other aircraft. This includes the capacity to hover, take off vertically, and land vertically, an attribute exceptionally beneficial in tight spaces or aircraft carriers. 

Moreover, the F135 engine employs a modular design, dramatically simplifying maintenance and mitigating operational costs. The components of the engine can be easily replaced, considerably truncating the maintenance and repair timeline.

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