Finland has agreed to buy 64 Lockheed Martin F-35A fighter jets to replace its aging fleet of McDonnell Douglas F/A-18s bought in the early 1990s, in a 10 billion-euro ($11.3 billion) deal that represents the Finnish military’s largest-ever purchase, the government said in a news conference Friday.
Finland is just the last country to opt for the F-35A fighters after a selection process that also included the Boeing F-18 Super Hornet, France’s Dassault Rafale, Britain’s Eurofighter Typhoon, and Sweden’s Saab Gripen. Switzerland opted to buy the F-35 earlier this summer. Denmark and Norway have also opted to purchase the F-35A. A total of nine countries in Europe, and 13 overall will now field the F-35.
Finland purchased 60 F/A-18 Hornets from the United States in the early 1990s but those aircraft are due to be retired by 2030. The Finnish Defense Forces began their search for a replacement fighter in 2014.
Finland, which shares a nearly 850-mile border with Russia is not a member of NATO but has worked closely with NATO and is a member of the European Union. In the last century, Finland has fought four wars against the Soviet Union in a time span ranging from 1914 to 1944.
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said Finland’s decision was unanimous after a recommendation by the Finnish Defense Forces, to purchase the F-35A.
“New fighters are a key part of Finland’s defense,” Marin said to the news media. “Fighters protect the integrity of Finnish airspace, protect society from airstrikes and support (Finnish) army and navy operations.”
Finnish Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen said they chose the F-35 after a military capability evaluation found the fifth-generation fighter jet “provided the best overall military capability to strengthen our defense system.”
“The F-35 effectiveness across air, land, and sea received the highest rating in the assessment,” he said during a press conference.
The Finnish Air Force also released a statement announcing the decision. “The F-35 solution, adapted to the given financial framework, was the most cost-effective,” they said.
“The F-35 was the cheapest in terms of purchase price. The operating and maintenance costs of the system are below the set annual cost limit of 254 million Euros (about $286 million). The operation and lifecycle development of the F-35 is possible with the resources of the Defense Forces. None of the bids were significantly cheaper in terms of operating and maintenance costs.”
The F-35A is the Air Force variant which is a conventional-takeoff-and-landing (CTOL) aircraft. Some of the specifications of the F-35A, the smallest and lightest of the F-35 family of fighter aircraft.
Top speed: 1,199 mph (Mach 1.6)
Wingspan: 35′ 0″
Range: 1,379 mi
Weight: 29,320 lbs
Engine type: Pratt & Whitney F135 (43,000 pounds of thrust)
Armament: The aircraft carries an internal 25 mm GAU-22/A four-barrel Gatling gun, which is capable of firing over 3,000 rounds a minute, and 18.000 lbs of ordnance.