Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) and Minister of Defence Antti Kaikkonen (Centre) spoke about the record-large material procurement at a press conference in the Government Palace in Helsinki on Friday, 10 December 2021. (Vesa Moilanen – Lehtikuva)

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F-35A LIGHTNING II, a fighter jet manufactured by Lockheed Martin, has been announced as the next multi-role fighter jet of Finnish Defence Forces.

The Ministry of Defence on Friday revealed that the Logistics Command of the Finnish Defence Forces has signed an agreement to procure 64 F-35A Block 4s, along with important and versatile weaponry, training and sustainment solutions, other related systems and sustainment and maintenance services until 2030.

The 10-billion-euro procurement is the largest materiel procurement in the history of Finland, highlighted Helsingin Sanomat.

Minister of Defence Antti Kaikkonen (Centre) on Friday said the F-35A offered the best military performance relative to the needs of the Finnish Defence Forces. The procurement, he envisioned, will have a significant impact on national defence capabilities for at least the next 30 years, a view that was echoed by the Chief of Defence at the Finnish Defence Forces Timo Kivinen.

Kaikkonen pointed out that the annual cost of the fighter jets does not exceed the 250-million-euro limit set for it when spread over the expected life of the assets. The aircraft are to remain in use until the 2060s.

“As consolation to anyone who’s concerned about the price, I can say we don’t have to make investments as big as this every year,” he commented in the press conference, also drawing attention to the employment impact of the industrial co-operation laid out in the procurement agreement.

The co-operation, he revealed, has a direct employment impact of 4,500 person-years and an indirect one of 1,500 person-years, with the agreement signalling the production of 400 front fuselages for the jet and the establishment of capacity to independently service the engine and other parts in Finland.

“This is good news for Finnish defence industry.”

The four other candidates to replace the ageing fleet of combat aircraft were Boeing F/A Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale, Saab Gripen and Eurofighter Typhoon.

The candidates were evaluated first based on three initial criteria: affordability, industrial co-operation and security of supply. The three candidates that satisfied the initial criteria were then evaluated based on military capability.

Commander of the Finnish Air Force Pasi Jokinen said the F-35 received a score of 4.47 for military capability. The 3.81 points given to the second-best candidate fell short of the minimum required score of 4.0 points.

Kaikkonen assured that the selection will not undermine defence co-operation with Sweden.

The government authorised the procurement unanimously after a few-hour discussion on Friday, according to Helsingin Sanomat. Although the Left Alliance attached a statement to the decision to stress that the costs of the project must not increase, the ruling parties were no longer able to oppose or steer the decision toward another candidate, having approved the acquisition and its budget earlier.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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