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Finland confirms F-35 as its next generation fighter

Lockheed wins Finland's fighter jet competition with the F-35
F-35 flying with a Finnish Air Force F/A-18 Hornet. Photo: Finnish defense ministry

The Finnish government has confirmed its choice of the F-35 Lightning II as the successor to its Hornet fleet.

By selecting the F-35 as part of the HX fighter program, Finland is becoming the second European country to go for the Lockheed Martin-built stealth aircraft this year, with the first one being Switzerland.

The government confirmed the choice of the F-35A after reports on the decision first emerged last Sunday.

The Finnish Air Force will receive 64 F-35A aircraft, a weapons package, as well as a sustainment and training solution.

The country’s defense ministry said the F-35 fulfilled the security of supply, industrial participation and affordability requirements.

In the military capability assessment, the F-35 comprehensive system was evaluated as the best, the Finnish defense department announcement said.

The F-35 operating and sustainment costs fit the allocated cost frame, and the aircraft development during the life cycle will be feasible with the normal resources of the Finnish Defence Forces.

Finland’s choice of the fighter will also provide commonality with its neighbors, as Norway and Denmark are also buying the type.

The Finnish Air Force’s current Hornet fleet will be phased out as planned from 2025. The first Finnish F-35 fighters will begin service with the Finnish Air Force in 2025 as part of the training of Finnish personnel in the United States. The first F-35s will be delivered to Finland in 2026, and will replace the Hornet fleet in the fighter wings between 2028 and 2030.

“The F-35 will provide Finnish industries unique digital capabilities that leverage 5th Generation engineering and manufacturing. The production work will continue for more than 20 years, and the F-35 sustainment work will continue into the 2070s,” said Bridget Lauderdale, Lockheed Martin’s vice president and general manager of the F-35 program.

Lockheed Martin’s F-35 won against Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, the Dassault Rafale, the Eurofighter Typhoon, and the Swedish Gripen fighter, that were pitched to Finland as part of the HK program.

It is interesting to note that the Finnish government said the F-35 had the lowest procurement cost when considering all aspects of the offer. A similar statement was made by Switzerland, when it announced its choice of the F-35.

The operating and sustainment costs of the system will fall below the 254 million euro yearly budget, the defense ministry said, adding that no offer was significantly less expensive than others in operating and sustainment costs.

To date, the F-35 operates from 21 bases worldwide, with nine nations operating F-35s on their home soil. There are more than 730 F-35s in service today, with more than 1,535 pilots and 11,500 maintainers trained on the aircraft.