The next #HX candidate to participate in the #HXChallenge is Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II. Two F-35As arrived at Pirkkala Air Base tonight on 9 February. #ilmavoimat #finaf #comcamfi pic.twitter.com/ilpwfn7dSk
— Ilmavoimat (@FinnishAirForce) February 9, 2020
Two Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) jets have arrived at Tampere-Pirkkala Airbase north of Helsinki on 9 February to participate in Finnish Air Force’s HX evaluation. The two aircraft were part of a flight of four that departed Luke Air Force Base (AFB) in Arizona on 5 February but problems with the aerial refuelling tankers assigned to support the aircraft on their trans-Atlantic crossing meant that only two F-35As were able to make the journey. The flight evaluation is part of the capability assessment in the on-going HX fighter program for the procurement of new fighter aircraft to replace the operational capability of the Finnish Air Force’s F-18C Hornet fleet that is to be phased out as from 2025.
For the HX evaluations, Finland is assessing a potential replacement for the air force’s 55 Boeing F/A-18C and seven F/A-18D Hornet fighters. The evaluation is being carried out in Finland with tests performed under Finnish winter conditions, with the purpose to verify the data previously reported by the fighter manufacturers. The other contenders participating in the HX competition are Dassault Rafale (France), Eurofighter Typhoon (Europe), Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet (USA) and Saab Gripen (Sweden). Eurofighter Typhoon and Saab Gripen have already completed their evaluation. Saab is also offering its GlobalEye airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft as part of the package. According to the current schedule, a procurement decision on the HX program is anticipated in 2021.
The HX Fighter Program is critical for Finland’s defence capability and determines the Air Force’s entire combat capability into the 2060s. Hornets make up Finland’s current fighter fleet. They were introduced into service in 1995-2000. At their entry into service, their service life was estimated to be 30 years. The primary task of Finland’s defence capability is to prevent the use of military force and the threat thereof, and repel attacks. This is why Finland needs fighters. Fighters safeguard the integrity of Finland’s airspace, protect society from air attacks and provide support for the combat of the Army and the Navy. Fighters can also be used for engagement of stand-off targets. Fighters also complement reconnaissance, surveillance and C2 in the Defence Forces.