WASHINGTON — The U.S. State Department on Oct. 9 approved the sale of the F/A-18EF Super Hornet and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to Finland, paving the way for the nation to purchase American jets should either Boeing or Lockheed Martin win its ongoing fighter competition.
The two U.S. offerings are facing off in a multinational contest that also includes France’s Dassault Rafale, the British-made Eurofighter Typhoon and the Swedish Saab Gripen E/F.
The F-35 package, worth $12.5 billion, includes 64 F-35A conventional-takeoff-and-landing jets, 66 Pratt & Whitney F135 engines, and the aircraft’s associated communications and electronic warfare systems. Notably, it contains not only the aircraft’s current logistics system — the troubled Autonomic Logistics Information System — but also its replacement — the Operational Data Integrated Network — which is under development.
Meanwhile, the Super Hornet package — worth an estimated $14.7 billion — includes 50 single-seat F/A-18E jets, eight double-seated F/A-18Fs and 14 EA-18G Growlers, which is the electronic attack variant. The package also includes 166 F414-GE-400 engines for the dual-engine fighter, Sniper targeting pods, AN/APG-79 radars, AN/ALR-67(V)3 electric warfare countermeasures receiving sets, and Next Generation Jammer Midband and advanced electronic attack kits for the EA-18G.
Both offers include a suite of munitions for the aircraft, including 500 Small Diameter Bomb II weapons, 150 AIM-9X missiles, 200 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range weapons, Joint Standoff Weapons, Joint Direct Attack Munition kits that turn dumb bombs into precision-guided weapons, and assorted test and support gear for training and maintenance.
After the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency posted the notification of the potential sale, Finland’s Ministry of Defence released a statement clarifying that the announcement represents an important procedural step forward for the HX Fighter Program, but that negotiations with all competitors are ongoing.
“The announcement of the notification procedure does not constitute a procurement decision by Finland, as the decision to procure multi-role fighters will be made by the Government in 2021,” the statement said. “Furthermore, the types and quantities of multi-role fighters and weapons specified in the notification do not represent the final content of the Finnish procurement package; instead, the list published by the DSCA indicates those items and quantities that the US administration is prepared to sell at this stage of the procurement process.”
Finland also addressed the price of the packages, which exceed the $12 billion budget set by the country for the total cost of the program.
“In the FMS procedure, the quantities and prices proposed for approval are generally set higher than what the purchasing country has indicated in its own request. The purpose of this formality is to avoid the need to submit a new and time-consuming Congressional Notification in the event that the purchasing country makes changes to the procurement package,” it said.
The winner of the HX competition will produce up to 64 fighters to replace Finland’s Boeing F/A-18C/D Hornets, which are expected to be retired by 2030. Instead of issuing a requirement for a particular number of aircraft with set capabilities, Finland is allowing the vendors to create packages of aircraft and weapons that best meet the Air Force’s operational needs — and the nation’s budget.
Despite financial setbacks to the country caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Finland’s Defence Ministry in August proposed a massive 54 percent spending boost to the defense budget to $5.8 billion in 2021 (4.87 billion Euros), with much of the increase caused by the HX competition.
Corrected on 10/9/20 at 3:23 p.m. EST to reflect the correct budget numbers.
Valerie Insinna is Defense News' air warfare reporter. She previously worked the Navy/congressional beats for Defense Daily, which followed almost three years as a staff writer for National Defense Magazine. Prior to that, she worked as an editorial assistant for the Tokyo Shimbun’s Washington bureau.