MINISTER of Defence Antti Kaikkonen (Centre) on Thursday viewed that Finland will need its Hornet fighter jets in the coming years.
“If you look further into the future, when we get the new equipment at the end of the decade, the Hornets will be at the end of their life cycle. Their use value is starting to be pretty low,” he was quoted saying by Helsingin Sanomat.
The assessment was echoed by Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto (Greens). The F-18 Hornets, the first of which were delivered to Finland in 1995, would likely be of little use at the end of their life cycle to Ukraine, gauged Haavisto.
Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) has not ruled out the possibility of shipping some of the ageing jets to Ukraine before they have been replaced by US-made F-35 fighter jets.
“This is a question that should be considered very carefully,” she stated to reporters ahead of an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday. “We’ll have to take into consideration our geopolitical situation next to Russia. Also this is well understood, but we’ve provided support and are prepared to continue providing support also in the future. We’ve decided to acquire new fighter jets, and I do think we can discuss what we’ll do with the equipment we’re decommissioning.”
“This discussion has yet to take place in the appropriate institutions,” she added at a press conference organised after the summit. “We can’t escape this discussion in Finland. This has been going on for some time in Europe.”
Finland has placed a roughly nine-billion-euro order for 64 Lockheed Martin F-35s. The first of the fighter jets are to be delivered in 2025.
Delivering Hornets to Ukraine has been a topic of discussion since the prime minister visited Kyiv, Ukraine, in March. She stated at the time that the possibility of delivering jets to Ukraine could be discussed in Finland.
During an election debate organised by Ilta-Sanomat on Tuesday, Marin revealed that she has discussed the issue with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. She also expressed her bafflement at the reluctance of decision-makers to discuss the possibility and the insistence on scrapping the jets.
Helsingin Sanomat on Wednesday reported that Ukraine has called for trilateral talks about the Hornet jets with Finland and the US.
Kaikkonen on Thursday said Finland will issue its response to the request in the coming weeks, declining to comment on its nature. He added that instead of the fighter jets it would be more important to consider how to provide more immediate support to Ukraine.
Finland, he revealed, decided yesterday on its 14th aid package to Ukraine, which includes three Leopard 2 mine-clearing tanks, heavy weaponry and ammunition to the total tune of 161 million euros. Finland has previously pledged around 750 million euros worth of military aid, including three mine-clearing Leopard tanks, to Ukraine.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT