The Defence Forces got a mandate from Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö to start the HX fighter project. The aim is to replace the operational capability of the Air Force F/A-18 aircraft which will be phased out as of 2025. The decision on starting the project is based on the Government programme.
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.
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 aircraft’s systems, spare parts and software. To extend the life-span of the Hornet fleet would not be cost-effective and, from the perspective of Finland’s defence, a sufficient decision.
As the project to replace the capabilities of the Hornet fleet will take about 15 years to complete the decision was taken to act on the recommendation of the working 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 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.
Click here for the June report on the fighter replacement project (66 PDF pages), on the Finland MoD website.
-- Oct 21, 2015: Added link to Finland MoD report on fighter replacement program.