Two Lockheed Martin-built F-35A Lightning fighter jets arrived at Finnish Air Force’s Pirkkala base on February 9 for a week of tests and evaluations as part of the country’s HX fighter aircraft procurement program.
The conventional take-off and landing variant of the fifth-generation aircraft is the fourth contender to take part in the HX Challenge, a Finnish Air Force undertaking to determine the best replacement for the country’s existing F/A-18 fleet.
Prior to the F-35A, Finland first conducted tests with Eurofighter aircraft from the UK Royal Air Force and later with Gripen E (39-10) aircraft that are offered by Swedish defense company Saab. The Grippen flew with Meteor and IRIS-T missiles and the electronic attack jammer pod. Saab also showcased the GlobalEye multi-role airborne early warning & control aircraft during the event.
In addition to the Eurofighter Typhoon Consortium, Saab, and Lockheed Martin, France’s Dassault Aviation put its Rafale aircraft to the test in January. The final contestant will be the US aerospace and defense contractor Boeing with its F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.
The HX Challenge is the first stage of the capability assessment. The aim of the testing and evaluation event is to verify that each candidate’s systems and performance values match the data reported by the manufacturers.
The second phase of the capability assessment will make use of the data and performance values established during the HX Challenge. Carried out with virtual simulators, this phase will focus on determining the success of a flight of four aircraft in the scenarios itemized in the call for tenders.
As outlined by the Finnish defense ministry, the third phase will demonstrate the operational efficiency of each candidate’s comprehensive HX solution by playing and simulating a long-term war game. The data obtained in the first two phases of the capability assessment will be utilized in the war game, which will feature the HX solutions as a part of Finland’s defense system.
Finland is expected to select the preferred contender in 2021.