The Finnish armed forces have recommended the purchase of the US-built F-35 to the country’s defense ministry, local reports from Finland said on Sunday.
Should the reports be accurate, this does not mean an official decision on the F-35 as the Finnish Air Force’s next-generation fighter aircraft has been made, as the defense ministry and the government have the final say.
However, the armed forces’ recommendation can be expected to have an influence on the decision, which is expected to be made within the next days, according to Iltalehti.
Should the F-35 be confirmed as the winner of the Finnish HX fighter program to find a successor for the F/A-18 Hornet currently in service, it would win against Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, the Dassault Rafale, the Eurofighter Typhoon, and the Swedish Gripen fighter.
This would also be the second European win for Lockheed Martin this year, after the F-35 was selected by Switzerland in June.
The Finnish government has approved 9.4 billion euros for the purchase of multi-role fighters to replace the Hornet fleet. The approved budget is not only for the aircraft, but also for associated technical and training systems, along with weapons, sensors and other required type-specific support functions. The package must also include the changes in command, control, communications and computers (C4) and information systems required for its integration into the Finnish defense forces’ systems.
Finland released a request for final offers in January this year after evaluating all five aircraft options as part of the so-called HX Challenge. In 2020, all contenders were put through three phases of testing. These included a capability assessment followed by simulations of various scenarios based on data gathered during two weeks of flying that each of the offered aircraft had to complete.
After revealing the winner of the competition, Finland will expect to receive first aircraft by 2025. The Finnish Air Force’s Hornet aircraft are scheduled to retire by 2030.