Performance and Longevity Deciding Factors?
An official pronouncement may be made prior to the Christmas break but, meanwhile, local press in Helsinki is speculating on the veracity of rumours that Finland has selected the F-35 LIGHTNING II as the nation’s future multi-role combat aircraft.
According to the reports, the Finnish Defense Force has indicated to government that the F-35 is the preferred choice, citing both performance and system longevity as persuasive criteria – the user community appears committed to keeping the aircraft in service into the 2060s. Although some ministers are alleged to prefer a European to an American solution, the chances the FDF’s recommendation will be rejected are low, according to observers close to the competition.
The HX fighter programme, valued at some €10 billion, was established to replace Finland’s F/A-18C HORNETs. Evaluated were the F/A-18 SUPER HORNET, RAFALE, TYPHOON and GRIPEN, in addition to the F-35. When the US approved a possible Foreign Military Sale, a little over a year ago, Helsinki had requested 64 aircraft and associated equipment, spares, weapons and services, with a $12.5 billion (€11 billion) price tag.
The LIGHTNING II appears to be winning most competitions it enters, despite widespread and long-lasting criticism regarding costs. Nevertheless, the economies of scale accruing to the significant production volumes, coupled with undoubted performance and the likely service life expectations, make it a difficult act to beat. Though not – it has to be said – impossible.
Tim Mahon is Editor-in-chief of MILITARY TECHNOLOGY