Thursday, December 8, 2022

DECODED: Why F-35 Stealth Fighter Jets Again ‘Shot-Down’ Rafales & Typhoons For Massive Finnish Aircraft Deal

After Switzerland, Finland has announced the procurement of 64 F-35A fighter jets to replace its aging combat planes in a deal worth $9.5 billion. Earlier this year, Switzerland had decided to buy the American fifth-gen stealth jet in a $5.5 billion contract.

Finland picked the Lockheed Martin F-35A aircraft from a lineup of five finalists, including the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, France’s Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, and Sweden’s Saab Gripen.

The government has authorized the Finnish Defense Forces Logistics Command to ink a deal with the United States for Finland’s next multi-role fighter, according to a news release published by the Air Force. The F-35A Lightning II will replace Finland’s present fleet of F/A-18 Hornets.

The contract covers 64 F-35A Block 4 multirole aircraft, a large and diverse armament package, essential training and maintenance solutions, as well as other relevant equipment and sustainment services through the end of 2030.

The Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter.

Following a six-year tendering process, the country decided to choose American jets. During the process, the jets were assessed for their capacity to operate in Arctic circumstances and other core areas including military capability, security of supply, industrial cooperation, and procurement and life-cycle costs. 

The combat, reconnaissance, and survivability attributes of the F-35 set it apart from the other HX program competitors. The existing Hornet fleet will enter the decommissioning phase from 2025 onwards and the first F-35 will be delivered to Finland in 2026.

Finland claims that the F-35 is the best option due to the country’s harsh operating conditions, which include widespread operations from highway strips. The Finnish Air Force regularly conducted exercises using highways as runways to prepare for the worst-case scenario. 

Lockheed Martin’s Package

The performance of the F-35 system was best matched to the Finnish operating environment and HX requirements. The aircraft ranked first in the evaluation in all mission areas by getting the highest overall score.

The Air Force praised the F-35’s situational awareness and capacity to exchange targeting data with other platforms, as well as its stealth qualities and sensors, which are entirely inside rather than external.

Moreover, its technological solution is sustainable and has the best growth potential among all competitors. The contract covers the multi-role fighters’ weaponry, which includes the AMRAAM, Sidewinder, SDB I and II, JDAM family armament, JSM and JASSM-ER. By the end of 2035, the weapons will be procured within the availability of program funds. 

F-35As over Nellis AFB, Nevada – Lockheed Martin

The weapon package can be optimized throughout the purchase process, considering the availability of the latest weapon types and adjustments within the operating environment.

The F-35’s combat survival is aided by its stealth and other unique features such as sensors and networked operation capability. The aircraft also has the largest internal fuel capacity and does not need external fuel tanks, which helps it to stay in the air for a longer time. 

A significant number of additional products and services can be concurrently acquired in connection with the acquisition of the combat system. These include maintenance systems, including test equipment, tools, assembly services, and spare parts, information systems, training and service systems, mission support systems, and related services.

How F-35 Outperformed Its Rivals?

The F-35 won the Finish HX competition because it achieved the major decision parameters of supply security, industry participation, and cost. Furthermore, in the capability evaluation, the F-35 had the highest operational effectiveness and the largest potential for future growth. 

Finland’s national supply security criteria are also met with the F-35 solution. The maintenance of the system is based on the F-35 global maintenance solution, which has been customized to fulfill national supply security requirements.

The F-35 package appears to have been deliberately customized by Lockheed Martin and the US government to suit Finnish security of supply needs. 

Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II procurement - Wikipedia
Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II – Wikipedia

The defense forces and national industrial entities will build critical maintenance capabilities. The solution includes maintenance capabilities that will be produced in Finland, as well as spare parts and replaceable assemblies that will be under Finland’s exclusive national authority in the event of an emergency, as well as participation in the global maintenance network.

The F-35 option was found to be the most cost-effective when matched to the assigned financial framework. When all parts of the offer are considered, the F-35 has the lowest acquisition cost.

A final engine assembly project for Finnish aircraft is also being proposed in Finland, as part of an industrial cooperation agreement to be reached between the Finnish Ministry of Defense, Lockheed Martin, and engine maker Pratt & Whitney.

The operational facilities, hangars, runway structures and procured system infrastructure will be built in the country. The technological and economic grounds for these provide Lockheed Martin an edge over other competitors in Finland’s HX program.

Considering the long land border with Russia, this aircraft will provide strong deterrence power to Finland. Moreover, this procurement will put Finland close to the US and its allies, ensuring the best possible way to counter potential aggression by Russia. 

Meanwhile, Switzerland’s decision to buy the American fifth-generation stealth jet in a $5.5 billion deal is under scrutiny after a Swiss parliamentary committee announced that it would review the proposal.

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