The Finnish military has conveyed to the government its preference for the American F-35 as the country’s new multirole fighter, Finnish newspaper Iltalehti revealed, citing sources.
Military experts recommended the Lockheed Martin aircraft for the six-year, $11.3 billion HX Fighter program.
According to the outlet, the recommendation was based on the aircraft’s performance and life span. Additionally, the aircraft’s annual operating cost was found to be within the limit set by the government, 10 percent of the peacetime defense budget.
Decision Likely Before Christmas
The government is likely to make its final decision within the next ten days, most likely before the Christmas break, the outlet added. The program will replace the Finnish Air Force’s 64 Boeing Hornets. The tender also involves two Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft.
The news is a blow to the other program competitors: the Saab Gripen, the Boeing Super-Hornet, the Eurofighter Typhoon, and the Dassault Rafale.
Lockheed’s Efforts to Clinch Deal
Saab had reportedly offered 64 Gripen E single-engine fighters for the program at a cost of 6.5 billion euros ($7.35 billion), which includes “the cost of a sustainment package for a decade as well as transfer of technology.” The company had also offered Finland a weapons package for 1.5 billion euros ($1.70 billion).
According to Swedish public broadcaster SVT Nyheter, Saab’s efforts to clinch the deal paled in comparison to Lockheed’s, which included placing a flight simulator at the US embassy in Helsinki for Finnish pilots to carry out simulated test flights. More importantly, the Finnish defense group responsible for making the recommendation visited a Norwegian airbase where they were briefed about the American aircraft’s capabilities and possible weapons.