WASHINGTON — The Finnish government has picked the F-35 as the replacement for the country’s F-18 Hornet fleet, known as the HX program, according to a Ministry of Defence statement.
The decision settles one of the last remaining lucrative fighter competitions in Europe, with Lockheed Martin’s offering once again coming out on top. In June, the Swiss also picked the plane, marketed by Lockheed as a stealthy plane with novel sensor-fusion capabilities.
The Finns have budgeted a maximum of €10 billion (U.S. $11 billion) for the HX program. The cost for 64 F-35 A Block 4 planes is estimated at €4.7 billion, while a stash of AMRAAM and Sidewinder air-to-air missiles will come in at €755 million and a maintenance services package through 2030 will cost €2.9 billion.
Lockheed’s plane beat out four other competitors: Boeing’s F-18 Super Hornet, Dassault’s Rafale, the Eurofighter Typhoon and Saab’s Gripen. The evaluation process saw the F-35 “pass” the selection criteria of security of supply and industrial participation and affordability, according to the MOD statement. It also scored highest in the military capability area.
Lockheed Martin was quick to point out in a promotional video posted on Twitter that the Finnish decision makes it the ninth country in Europe to pick the contractor’s fifth-generation fighter jet. The move means competition in the backyards of local manufacturers Airbus, Dassault and Saab has heated up even more.
In a statement, Dassault painted Finland’s pick as a decision in favor of the United States, presumably over its neighbors on the continent. “Once again, we notice and regret an American preference prevailing in Europe,” reads the statement, posted on the company’s website.
One of the Finnish selection criteria was the multinational and “large” user community, the MoD said. “The system is in service in many European nations including Norway and Denmark.”
The first F-35 is expected in Finland in 2026.
Sebastian Sprenger is Europe editor for Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multinational investments in defense and global security. He previously served as managing editor for Defense News.