HELSINKI — Finland has issued a formal notification to industry candidates in its multibillion-dollar fighter program, urging them to keep their proposals within the prescribed budget constraints.

“We do not envisage that we will see withdrawals because of the revised request for quotations. We expect no change there,” said Lauri Puranen, who directs the Finnish Air Forces’ HX-fighter program. He said the move was meant simply to stress the need for all of the five international contenders to respect the program’s €10 billion, or $11.1 billion, limit.

Defense officials here have conceded that all five bidders, including Saab (Gripen), Dassault Rafale, the pan-European Eurofighter Typhoon, Boeing (F/A-18 Super Hornet), Lockheed Martin (F-35) have struggled with the project’s rigid budgetary ceiling.

"The budget set for the HX project has been an issue for all bidders and candidate aircraft,“ said Maj. Gen. Kari Renko, the deputy chief of the Finnish Defense Force’s Logistics Command.

Finland’s recently-elected, conservative-left coalition government has shown no willingness or flexibility to deviate from the billion budget cap. The defense ministry has been instructed to look for a fighter replacement solution within the budgetary range of €7 billion to €10 billion, or $7.7 billion to $11.1 billion.

Whatever flexibility exists in the HX project will impact the number of fighter aircraft purchased and weapons selected as part of the total acquisition program to replace the air force’s Boeing F/A-18C/D Hornets. The last of the service’s Hornets are expected to be retired by 2030.

The defense ministry is seeking responses to the reviews request for quotations to be submitted by the end of January 2020. This will be followed by a request for final offers during the second half of 2020, a process that will commence after stage-two negotiations.

The Finnish government plans to reach a decision on the HX fighter platform in 2021. The decision will cover the acquisition of a new aircraft, weapons, sensors, training, and spare parts.

Bidders are expected to use their responses to the revised solicitation to clarify the industrial-cooperation elements of their respective offers. Finland is looking for a solution that will benefit the country’s defense industry, and where parts and systems connected to the eventual contract will be produced under collaborative partnership contracts and joint venture agreements in Finland.

Gerard O'Dwyer is the Scandinavian affairs correspondent for Defense News.

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