Finland is looking for a new fighter, to replace the old F/A-18 Hornets that are nearing the end of their service life
Finland’s plan to buy 64 fighter jets is worth a total of 12 billion dollars. According to the latest announcement, Finland has received offers from five world-famous aircraft manufacturing companies, including Dassault, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, European Aircraft Company, and Saab.
The results of the auction are likely to be announced later this year. Last year, the candidate fighter, went through rigorous tests in Finland. It is expected that these fighters will conduct further simulation exercises later this year, to demonstrate their combat capabilities. The European fighters participating in the competition include the Rafale, Typhoon and Gripen; from the US are Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and especially the Lockheed Martin F-35.
Finland is a country that is not militarily affiliated, but has close ties to NATO. As Russia’s neighbor, the Nordic country has established close military cooperation with Sweden and the US in recent years. According to information, Boeing will be ready to supply 50 F/A-18E/F Block III fighters and 14 E/A-18G Growler electronic fighters to Finland.
The Finnish Air Force has been using the F/A-18 Hornet, so it already has the necessary infrastructure to use the Super Hornet. Approximately 60% of the F/A-18’s maintenance facility can be used for the Super Hornet, saving the Finnish Air Force costs. Boeing emphasizes that the transition from F/A-18 to Super Hornet will be very easy. The E/A-18G Growler, equipped with electronic jammers and anti-radiation missiles AGM-88, can suppress enemy air defenses well. Currently, the E/A-18G is considered the best electronic warfare aircraft.
Another American fighter, the F-35 fifth generation fighter. The fighter is equipped with advanced sensors, which can quickly detect and attack enemy fighters. Stealth is the F-35’s strong point, as it could allow Finland to confront the powerful Russian Air Force, which is currently believed to use the long-range air-to-air missiles for surveillance and control Finnish airspace. The F-35 project will also give Finland the opportunity to produce fighter aircraft. The F-35 will provide Finland with many high-tech jobs as production is expected to last more than 20 years.
The Rafale is the main fighter of the French Air Force and has been exported to India, Egypt, Qatar, Greece, Croatia. The Rafale is considered a “multi-role” fighter, well-equipped and able to deal with conventional and asymmetrical threats. As a 4++ generation fighter known for its agility, the Rafale has many models, and the Finnish model is the Rafale C. The Rafale can take off and land from a makeshift airfield, and is equipped with advanced weapons and electronic warfare systems. France claims that it can manufacture Rafale fighters in Finland.
The Typhoon is similar to the Rafale in terms of complexity and maneuverability, giving it a great advantage in high-altitude and high-speed aerial combat. Typhoon was jointly developed and produced by the UK, Germany, Spain and Italy. According to the information, the Typhoon still lacks attack capabilities, which is really a weakness compared to other fighters participating in the tender. It is armed with Meteor long-range air-to-air missiles and Storm Shadow cruise missiles. However, these weapons can also be fitted on Rafale, Gripen and F-35.
From a geopolitical point of view, Sweden’s entry into the Finnish Air Force’s fighter jet competition makes a lot of sense. Saab’s participation is seen as an extension of the Swedish-Finnish alliance. Sweden and Finland could build an air force with Gripen fighters to counter the Russian threat.
Saab has supplied Finland with two Global Eye early warning aircraft. Compared to other fighters participating in the tender, the Gripen has relatively low operating costs. It is equipped with active phased array radar, infrared search and track sensors, and a powerful electronic warfare system. Finland is expected to make a final decision by the end of 2021.