European Fighter Jets Lose Yet Another Tender as Finland Signs On For 64 F-35s

On December 10 the Finnish government confirmed plans to purchase F-35 fighter jets from United States, and formally authorised the Defence Forces Logistics Command to sign a procurement contract accordingly. Finland previously fielded Soviet fighter jets during the Cold War and was a major operator of the MiG-21, but subsequently operated the American F-18C/D Hornet which the F-35 is set to replaced. This marks not only a loss for the Boeing Company, which sought to market the F-18E Super Hornet and its electronic warfare derivative the E/A-18G Growler to replace the legacy Hornets, but also European producers which have consistently lost almost every contract when bidding against either the F-35 or the older F-15. The French Rafale, pan-European Eurofighter, and Swedish Gripen all lost the tender alongside the Super Hornet. F-35s are expected to be delivered to Finland from 2025 to 2030, and with 64 on the order it will be one of the largest clients for the aircraft in the world. 

The F-35 is one of just two fifth generation fighters fielded in squadron level strength and currently in serial production anywhere in the world, alongside the Chinese J-20, and is currently the only one on world export markets with the J-20 being reserved for China’s own defence only. This has made it highly attractive to foreign clients over the fourth-generation jets offered by Boeing and by European competitors, although the fighter’s operational costs are considerably higher despite its similar acquisition costs. The primary advantage of fifth generation fighters over modernised fourth generation designs is the use of very low observable airframes, which makes them much more survivable in beyond visual range combat against both ground-based defences and enemy fighters. A notable downside to the aircraft however is that it is still very far from ready for high-intensity combat with only a very limited initial operating capability. Despite several years of delays the fighter has yet to be certified by the Pentagon for full scale production due to ongoing performance issues, and it remains questionable how many of these will be resolved by the time aircraft begins deliveries to Finland.

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