Finland is likely to become the new customer for the Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter, according to the Helsinki-based newspaper Iltalehti. The Nordic country’s government is expected to announce the winner of the HX competition, which will choose the aircraft that will replace the Boeing F/A-18C/D jets that have been in service since the 1990s.
Saab (Gripen), Eurofighter (Typhoon), Dassault (Rafale), Boeing (F/A-18E/F) and Lockheed, with the F-35A version, took part in the competition.
Iltalehti claims to have heard from internal sources at the Finnish Ministry of Defense that the F-35 proved to be the best option in terms of performance and long service life – the aircraft should remain updated until at least 2060.
Finland has set a cap on the operating cost of the new fighter jets, which cannot exceed 10% of the nation’s peacetime defense budget, which currently stands at 250 million euros.
The HX bid was launched in 2015 and in May of this year bidders submitted their final proposals. The cost of acquiring the fighters is estimated at $12 billion, but the number of planes depends on each proposal. Saab, for example, offered 64 Gripen E/F fighters in addition to two GlobalEye Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) aircraft.
Finnish competition suggests following steps similar to what happened with Switzerland. The European nation analyzed the same competitors to replace its F/A-18s and ended up preferring the Lockheed Martin jet because it was the only 5th generation fighter, which provoked protests from groups that defended the choice of an aircraft produced on the continent.
The Finnish government is expected to announce the winning fighter within the next ten days.