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F/A-18 Hornet

The Boeing F/A-18 Hornet is a twin-engined multirole fighter designed in the United States. Most of the Finnish Air Forces F/A-18C and D Hornet fleet is divided between Lapland and Karelia Air Commands, where they equip Fighter Squadrons 11 and 31 respectively, and form the services primary striking power. The Hornet is operated in the training, air policing, and defensive counterair roles in times of crisis.

The Finnish air force marked a decade of flying the American F/A-18 Hornet during a ceremony 07 November. 2005 on an air base near Tampere, Finland. US Navy officials and aerospace industry representatives who assisted Finland with delivery of the fighter aircraft starting in 1995 gathered in a hangar at Satakunta air command, in the southern end of the Scandinavian country.

Finland purchased 64 F-18 Hornet aircraft. This included 57 C single-seat models, and seven D dual-seat models. The entire country has five million inhabitants, comparable to Londons population. A United Kingdom purchase on the same scale would total 700 aircraft, Finnish officials noted. This is part of Finnish transformation, modernization, said Minister of Defense Juhani Kaskeala, who defined the U.S. as an important international partner. Finland shares an 800-mile border with Russia.

Finnish officials first considered purchasing new aircraft in 1988 to replace its Saab Draken and Mikoyan & Gurevich MiG-21bis interceptors. Officials accepted offers in 1990 and selected the Hornet in January 1991. The F/A-18 was selected following a competition that included the American General Dynamics F-16, the French Dassault Mirage 2000, the Swedish JAS-39, and the Russian Mig-29. It was the fastest decision of this sort. The US Navy maintains a program in Finland dedicated to continuing a working relationship with the Finnish air force.

The preparations for replacing the three ageing MiG-21 and Saab Draken squadrons commenced at the end of the 1980s. Weapon technology development proved that Finlands fighter aircraft were completely outdated as regards the then character of battle, the main task of the Defence Forces and the requirements posed by the operating environment. Furthermore, in its report the Third Defence Committee had already stated that cruise missiles pose a new and significant challenge to the air defence.

After a few years of careful evaluation and an official competitive bidding to replace its Saab Draken and Mikoyan & Gurevich MiG-21bis interceptors i the contract of the Hornet was made in June 1992. Both the purchase price of the aircraft and assessment of life cycle costs for a 30-year in-service period were considered essential factors in the Finnish fighter competition. Of the four competing fighters, the Hornet was the second cheapest while offering the best price-to-performance ratio. The first two-seat Hornets were flown direct from the United States to Finland on 7 November 1995. It took three and half years from the decision till the delivery of the first aircraft.

The decision, taken amid security policy transformations in Europe and on the eve of an economic recession in Finland, had far-reaching effects on the future of Finlands credible defence and on its international acknowledgment. For its part, the acquisition bolstered Finlands standing in the western community and facilitated the intensification of security and trade policy relations with the United States and western European countries.

Finlands two-seat F-18Ds were built by McDonnell Douglas - which subsequently merged with Boeing - while the assembly of the F-18C single-seaters took place at the Patria Finavitec plant in Finland. The goal for Finavitec is to become independent for all future engine overhaul repair work through the knowledge it will gain assembling both the aircraft and the General Electric engines that the F/A-18 use.

The Boeing F/A-18 Hornet is a twin-engined multirole fighter designed in the United States. Most of the Finnish Air Forces F/A-18C and D Hornet fleet is divided between Lapland and Karelia Air Commands, where they equip Fighter Squadrons 11 and 31 respectively, and form the services primary striking power. The Hornet is operated in the training, air policing, and defensive counterair roles in times of crisis.

A vast array of modern weapons combined with sophisticated sensor and data transmission systems gives the Hornet an ability to handle both within and beyond visual range engagements under all weather and lighting conditions. Engagements are possible with a single aircraft or by flights of several jets in close coordination with other air defense assets. Even though the Hornets normally operate from permanent air bases, they can be dispersed and flown from highway strips in the event of crisis.

The Hornet multi-role fighter fleet is a key element of Finlands defence, forming the nucleus of the air defence. The Hornets fleets capabilities have been systematically improved through mid-life upgrades, and its relative performance will peak at the end of the 2010s. Following the mid-life upgrades the fleet is also able to carry out strike missions, which can impact the adversary deep in his territory, as well as participate in ground and maritime defence.

In the 1980s Finland had an extremely limited strike and reconnaissance capability and the character of the operating environment at that time did not facilitate correcting these capability shortcomings in the fighter procurement, even though all candidates for the procurement were multi-role fighters. This being the case, the procurement was exclusively implemented as an interceptor project in spite of the fact that the aircrafts other functional capabilities could have greatly benefited Finlands defence system.

The Government Security and Defence Policy Report 1997 launched the analysis on expanding the operational role of the Finnish Air Force and the usability of the Hornet fleet. As a result, the possibilities for acquiring weapon systems suited to offensive counter-air and strike operations were assessed. The actual decision to expand the Air Forces operational role, and to establish a completely new capability sector, came into being as a result of a strike capability study. In conjunction with the handling of the Government Report of 2004 the Defence Committee stated that an air-toground capability enables projecting significant firepower from one area to another in the entire territory of the nation over a short period of time, and that the air-to-ground capability together with the previously described weapon systems forms a robust, versatile and cost-effective total system for repelling attacks.

The decision to purchase the aircraft allocated the nations entire defense budget for three years, and was agreed to by national referendum. At the time, Finlands air defense was made up of MIG-21 and Saab J35 Draken aircraft. The Hornet advanced Finlands air defense by two generations, said Lyytinen. Finland phased out the MIG and Saab aircraft when the last Hornet arrived in 2000.

The results were aircraft delivered on time and on cost. The U.S. Navy is committed to the Hornet, and to those who fly it. The Navy transferred the missions of the S-3 Viking, EA-6B Prowler and F-14 Tomcat to the Hornet family, which includes the Hornet, Super Hornet, and an electronic attack variant of the Super Hornet known as the Growler.

One effort on which the program concentrated is a mid-life upgrade for the Finnish Hornets. Finland hopes to fly the aircraft well beyond the usual life expectancy of an aircraft, especially when flown under the extreme climate conditions over Finland. The Finns have a very ambitious plan, to keep the aircraft operational until 2030. They also want capabilities for their aircraft that are unheard of in an F/A-18C/D. It amounts to E/F capabilities in a C/D platform. Capabilities offered by Link 16, Advanced Tactical Forward Looking Infra-Red, advanced tactical radios, next generation radar warning receiver systems, and advanced mission computers would make the Finnish Hornet the most advanced F/A-18C/D aircraft in the world.

The last MLU 1 configured aircraft was rolled out in late 2010. The MLU 1 program focused on bettering the types air-to-air capabilities and brought about a helmet-mounted sighting system for improved close-in combat capability and the updated AIM-9X version of the Sidewinder infrared guided missile. A new interrogator/transponder was fitted to facilitate identification in combat, and a tactical moving map selectable on the cockpit displays was installed.

Initially the Finns were adamant about not procuring any air-to-ground weapons for their F/ A-18s, in an effort to assert the fact that their aircraft were for defensive purposes only. The primary objective of the second upgrade, designated MLU 2 and slated for implementation between 2010 and 2016, was to give the Hornet a surface attack capability that would be used to support the combat of the other services during joint operations. In addition to this, the MLU 2 program introduces an improved AIM-120 AMRAAM radar-guided missile for upped air combat capability, updated communication and navigation systems, and the Link-16 data link for interoperability. Other modifications include the substitution of cathode ray tube cockpit displays for liquid crystal units, and updates in the sensor and electronic countermeasures suites. On top of all these, the aircraft receive software updates, spares are being procured for the remainder of the types life span, the jets structure is beefed-up, and engines are subjected to overhaul.

Other modifications include the substitution of cathode ray tube cockpit displays for liquid crystal units, and updates in the sensor and electronic countermeasures suites. On top of all these, the aircraft receive software updates, spares are being procured for the remainder of the types life span, the jets structure is beefed-up, and engines are subjected to overhaul.

Initially the second Hornet mid-life upgrade was scheduled to take place after the year of 2015 but it was advanced owing to information on the life cycle management plans provided by the other operator-countries and the US Navy in the Hornet International Conferences. The other operators will retire their Hornets from service by the year of 2020. As it is defined in the current plans, the main operators, the US Navy and the US Marine Corps, will fly with Hornets up to 2023.

According to the US law, any upgrades, except those associated with flight safety, are not allowed for war material, in this case fighters, to be decommissioned during the last 60 months of their operation. Thus the US services will take the first measures to shut down Hornet operations as soon as in 2018. Because the newer Super Hornet and the legacy Hornet have different equipment (power plants, radar, countermeasures systems), the use of the former will not support the latter.

After the main operators have shut down their systems, there will not be any prerequisites for world-wide system support within a few years. For small operator-countries the capability to maintain these complicated systems with a sufficient amount of spare parts is limited and, consequently, Finland will withdraw its Hornet fleet from service according to the initial purchase schedule after 30 years of operation between 2025 and 2030.

Finland will withdraw its Hornet fleet from service according to the initial purchase schedule after 30 years of operation between 2025 and 2030. The extension of the life cycle of the the Hornet Group was found to be too costly. The life-span of the Hornet fleet which will end by the end of the 2020s is limited by three main factors: weakening of relative capabilities, fatigue of structures and the availability of the aircrafts systems, spare parts and software. To extend the life-span of the Hornet fleet would not be cost-effective and, from the perspective of Finlands defence, a sufficient decision.



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