HX Multi-Role Fighter
The Government of Finland on 10 December 2021 authorised the Finnish Defence Forces Logistics Command to sign a procurement contract with the Government of the United States on Finland’s next multi-role fighter. The fighter replacing the Hornet fleet’s capability is the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II. The procurement contains 64 F-35A Block 4 multi-role fighters, substantial and versatile weaponry tailored for the operating circumstances, required training and sustainment solutions, other related systems as well as sustainment and maintenance services until the end of 2030.
In the HX Fighter Programme evaluation of the tenderers’ offers, the F-35 fulfilled the security of supply, industrial participation and affordability requirements of the decision-making areas. In the military capability assessment, the F-35 comprehensive system was the best. The F-35 combat, reconnaissance and survival capabilities were the best suited of the HX candidates. 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. Within the procurement process, several essential security of supply requirements and significant industrial participation have been agreed upon. The essential security of supply requirements relate specifically to independent ability to operate in exceptional circumstances.
The F-35 programme is multinational and its user community large. The system is in service in many European nations including Norway and Denmark. The current Hornet fleet will be phased out as planned from the year 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. In Finland the F-35 system will replace the Hornet fleet in the fighter wings between 2028 and 2030.
Previous experience in the Air Force had shown that it takes at least one decade to procure new fighters. Since it will take until 2021 before it is time for decisions and signing contracts, delivery of the first new plane is expected by 2025. The initial phase of information acquisition is not usually based on a competitive bidding. At a subsequent stage, to get reliable and confidential performance-specific information for comparison, an official project must be started by announcing a competitive bidding in accordance with regulations governing public procurements.
As Finland's current fleet of 62 F-18 aircraft gets older with every passing year, the country's air force is seeking a replacement. The whole deal is estimated to be worth about $8 billion, and the Finnish military and politicians are looking at five different options, namely Saab's Gripen, Lockheed Martin's F-35, Boeing's F-18 Super Hornet, the Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault's Rafale. Saab's competitive edge is, first and foremost, its price. "A small nation like Finland needs to be able to afford to both purchasing and actually flying its jets. You do not buy something you can ill afford to use. But above all, it is important to have a plan that is capable of doing the job," Kim Jäämeri, the head of Finland's air force, told Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet September 8, 2016.
Finnish defense foces issued a call for revised tenders to the five fighter jet manufacturers vying for the up to 10-billion-euro contract to replace the ageing fleet of F/A-18 Hornets of the Finnish Air Force. The call for tenders was issued on 31 October 2019, by the Logistics Command of the Finnish Defence Forces, according to a press release from the Finnish government.
The goal of the project is to replace the ageing fighter jet fleet with up to 64 multi-role fighter jets that meet the requirements of the operating environment. The supplier candidates were asked to compile the information presented in their initial bids and subsequent negotiations into a cohesive, up-to-date and improved package, and submit their revised bids by 31 January 2020. The evaluation, then, will serve as the basis for making the final political decision on the acquisition, which is expected in 2021.
Finland was identified by Lockheed Martin officials as one of the possible buyers in presentations to industry in 2007. However, this would be a long-shot as a foreign military sales opportunity. A study (2008) of the Finnish Ministry of Defence called for a possible replacement of the current F-18 by the F-35 in 2025-2030, but with a smaller number than the current fleet. Important budget constraints would play a role.
In February 2009 manufacturer Lockheed Martin Corp. said Finland and Belgium had become the latest countries to speak to the Pentagon about possible purchase of the multinational F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
The working group which was set up to make a preliminary assessment of how to replace the operational capability of the Air Force F/A-18 aircraft proposed in June 2015 procurement of multi-role fighters. The capabilities of multi-role fighters would be complemented with air defence capabilities. The need and possibilities to procure unmanned aircraft and other complementing capabilities will be analysed at a later point.
The capabilities of multi-role fighters play a significant role in securing a pre-emptive threshold which would stop a possible aggressor from using military force against Finland. The capabilities of fighters form an integral part of air defence and the ability of the Defence Forces to use fire power to impact targets on land and at sea.
The life cycle of F/A-18 fighters will terminate by the end of next decade. It is not possible to replace their operational capability with anti-aircraft weapons or unmanned aircraft alone since both systems would only cover a part of the capabilities of the Hornet aircraft. The project to replace F/A-18 fighters will extend approximately over 15 years. According to the report of the working group, the project needs to be launched in autumn 2015 at the latest. Project-related information requests should be made and, ultimately, invitations for tenders sent during the current parliamentary term.
The Finnish government gave the go-ahead in October 2015 to the country's defense forces to procure advanced fighter jets in line with a special program. Finland's Defense Minister Jussi Niinistö authorized the launch of a special program to replace the country's aging fleet of Boeing F/A-18C Hornets.
Known as HX, the program came three months after a working group delivered a report on possible options for modernizing the country's fleet of fighter jets. The document stressed the necessity of Finland acquiring a multirole fighter to replace the F/A-18 Hornet fleet by 2030. The calls for tender should be in 2017, according to the statement of the group. The decision on submitting requests for information and calls for tenders will be made during this parliamentary term while the actual procurement decision will have to be made in the early 2020s.
The Finnish Ministry of Defense said, in turn, that the current Hornet fleet is due to complete its service life before the end of the 2020s. The Ministry referred to overall structural fatigue, the weakening of relative capabilities, as well as the availability of the aircraft's systems, spare parts, and software – factors that the Ministry said prompted the government to launch the procurement program.
Defense Minister Jussi Niinistö was mandated with the armed forces to launch a project to replace the Hornet fleet in the next decade. The acquisition of the new aiecraft will be according to Niinisto to pay 6-10 billion euros. Determining which of the different options and the tender for the last several years. In the year 2021 is supposed to decide which of the aircraft are selected.
Ilkka Kanerva of the Defence Committee Chair (IOC) "What Jets will be purchased, is not a technical issue, but a significant military and security policy. The importance of safety has risen so serious, that now you can not watch it around or over."
The replacement is not possible within the framework of the current defence budget and therefore requires separate funding. The parliament will decide on the funding under its budgetary authority.
Developments in Finland’s operating environment and the tasks of the Defence Forces, the Air Force and air defence require that the capabilities provided by the Hornet fleet be replaced by the end of the 2020s. The working group which was set up to assess the replacement of the Air Force F/A-18 aircraft proposed in June the procurement of multi-role fighters.
The capabilities of multi-role fighters play a significant role in securing a pre-emptive threshold which would stop a possible aggressor from using military force against Finland. The capabilities of the Hornet fleet are an integral part of air defence and the joint fire capability of the Defence Forces to engage land- and sea-based targets. In addition, these capabilities support intelligence, surveillance and C2 systems in the Defence Forces.
Even though the Hornet fleet can be flexibly used to defend the entire territory of the nation, the number of the aircraft procured (57 single-seaters and 7 two-seaters) was not based on operational requirements. Rather, it reflected the artificial limitation imposed on Finland in the Paris Peace Treaty of 1947. During the preparations for the 1997 Report additional aircraft procurements were considered in order to remedy the aforementioned limitation. But as it was, Finland’s economic resources did not permit the acquisition of any additional aircraft during that planning period. The number of aircraft continues to pose a challenge to the defence of Finland’s large geographical area.
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