HELSINKI, FINLAND — Finland is in a period of waiting for new fighters [F-35 Lightning II] to replace the existing McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet fleet. The 64 fifth-generation fighters will replace the 55 Hornets of the Finnish Air Force [FAF or FiAF].
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Commander Captain Tomi Sorvari spoke to Finnish media Mtv Uutiset about the state of the current air fleet and the replacement process ahead in the coming years. Captain Sorvari stated that the condition of the F-18 Hornet is already changing and will continue for years to come. Currently, there are even F-18 fighter jets, which are only suitable for museums or memorials. He did not specify the quantity of these already non-operationally ready aircraft.
Sorvari explained that in the coming years, Finland will have to gradually switch from the F-18 to the F-35. All 64 F-35 fighters should be in the FAF by the end of 2030. “The introduction of new equipment is also a long-term process, where new and old systems are used side by side for a long time,” writes Mtv Uutiset in its material. “At some point, everything new is acquired, in which case the old equipment will be phased out step by step,” says Sorvari.
The debate over the fate of the FAF’s F-18 Hornet has been going on since early March. The Finnish Prime Minister, Mrs. Sanja Marin, announced the intention to discuss whether F-18 Hornets should not be given to Ukraine. However, Finland’s Ministry of Defense hastened to issue a press release of its own, saying “they will not comment on the statement of Ms. Sanja Marin.” Moreover, Captain Sorvari announced that among the leadership of the FAF, the question of whether the F-18 should be delivered to Ukraine was not put on the agenda at all, nor was it present in their comments as a possibility.
BulgarianMilitary.com reminds you that only Washington decides the fate of American weapons for re-export. Even if Finland were to agree on such military aid to Ukraine, it would not be possible without US permission. An international rule that has been violated since the beginning of the war in Ukraine in favor of Ukraine.
Russia, for example, has not authorized the re-export of its weapons, or weapons inherited from the Soviet Union, to Ukraine. BulgarianMilitary.com recalls that Finland already donated 23 units of 23mm ITK 61 ‘Sergei’ [ZU-23] in August 2022. There is no information that Helsinki has received permission from Moscow to re-export.
Finnish F-18s can be used in many ways, continued Captain Sorvari. In theory, the fighters can also be sold, for example as spare parts, but the process is very precise and requires permission from the manufacturing country. In Finland, there are also precise processes where the military equipment that the country leaves can end up.
F-18 could be scrapped
According to the Finnish captain in command, there is a possibility that the F-18 Hornets will be scrapped in the future. But it all depends on the individual characteristics of the aircraft. Some will likely be scrapped, and others may continue to fly.
However, this presents the FAF with slightly more serious obstacles for two main reasons: the production of spare parts for the F-18 will gradually cease, which will mean difficult and expensive maintenance. The other issue is also related to finances – whether it is necessary to maintain two systems. Sorvari philosophically concludes by saying that in principle there are many possible options, but it all comes down to money.
However, it appears that Helsinki is embarking on a complex and long journey to transition from one system to another. This is a process that, in addition to acquiring the planes themselves, involves acquiring or building the entire system around them. These are new weapons, services, support, and spare parts. Training also takes time, and reaching the full operational capability of the future F-35 fleet can be expected sometime around 2035.
However, how many F-18 Hornets will become museum exhibits, how many will be used for spare parts, and whether Finland will agree to send some of them to Ukraine – we have to find out in the medium-term future.
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