Finland Orders 64 F-35 Fighter Jets in Major Air Force Revamp

The first F-35A Lightning II assigned to the 354th Fighter Wing lands at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, April 21, 2020. A total of 54 F-35As will be stationed at Eielson AFB by the end of 2021, which will make Alaska the most concentrated state for combat-coded fifth-generation aircraftIn choosing the F-35, Finland has inched closer not only to the US, but to its fellow Nordic nations Norway and Denmark, which previously opted for the same variant despite technical issues and runaway costs.Finland has signed a deal with US manufacturer Lockheed Martin on the procurement of F-35A multi-role fighters in a major air force upgrade.A total of 64 fifth-generation fighter jets will be delivered between 2025 and 30 to replace the current fleet of F/A-18 Hornets, which will be phased out by 2030, the Finnish government said in a statement.The deal, worth EUR 8.4 billion ($9.4 mln) also includes aircraft engines and maintenance equipment, systems, spare parts, replacement equipment, training equipment and servicing needed for use and maintenance, as well as training for pilots and technical personnel.The deal will be followed by letters of agreement on the procurement of air-to-air weapons such as the Sidewinder and AMRAAM missiles, as well as air-to-ground and air-to-surface weapons.The construction of the necessary hangars and other equipment will add a further EUR 777 million ($886 million), whereas another EUR 824 million (940) will be reserved for the final optimised weapons package.In the tender for the deal, Lockheed Martin defeated Sweden’s Saab, its US rival Boeing, France’s Dassault and Britain’s BAE Systems. Defence Minister Anti Kaikkonen described the F-35 as “the best to meet Finland’s needs”.To date, Finland is the fourteenth nation worldwide to have chosen the F-35, despite the project’s long-standing technical difficulties and ballooning costs.The choice of the premier American fighter jet brings the non-aligned nation closer not only to the US, but its Nordic neighbours Norway and Denmark as well, which previously made the same choice, each inking the costliest military deals in their respective military history.Unlike Norway and Denmark, Finland is not a member of NATO but it has forged stronger ties with the organisation in recent years and chosen military equipment compatible with that of NATO members.

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