Finland is reported to pick F-35 jets in $15.5 billion tender

HELSINKI (BLOOMBERG) – Finland is set to pick Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets in its 10 billion-euro (S$15.5 billion) tender to replace soon-outdated war planes that form a key defence pillar of Russia’s neighbour, according to a report in local media.

A fleet of F-35s will be acquired due to their capability and expected long lifespan, newspaper Iltalehti said, citing a number of defence and security policy sources it did not identify.

The Defence Forces made the proposal to the Defence Ministry, which backs the motion along with top security and foreign policy makers, the newspaper said on Sunday (Dec 5).

Selecting the Lockheed Martin warplanes would align the Nordic country with the United States for the coming decades through industrial cooperation that accounts for almost a third of the order price.

Finland is not a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, though it trains with the alliance and uses Nato-compatible gear.

Defence ministry director Lauri Puranen, who is responsible for the procurement, declined to comment when contacted by another local newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat.

Finland has spent the past five years selecting a new fighter with air-to-surface and air-to-sea capabilities to defend a 1,300km border with Russia, seeking to deter any aggression from its eastern neighbour.

The jets will replace 64 Boeing F/A-18 Hornets that will be retired in stages in 2025 to 2030, with the new aircraft set to be in service until the 2060s.

The procurement also includes weapons systems, sensors, supporting equipment and functions, such as training.

While the Nordic nation of 5.5 million can muster 180,000 troops for wartime service through national conscription, its landmass is too large to defend without war planes.

Finland has also been considering fighter jets from Boeing, Dassault Aviation, the Eurofighter consortium and Saab, and the government is due to decide this month on the procurement.

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