Finland Initiates €10 billion Fighter Jet Procurement Process
The Finnish Air Force has invited all the fighter jets competing for a €10 billion contract to come and ‘audition’ for the role. The planes will take to the skies from Pirkkala Air Base as part of ‘Operation HX Challege’, and each contender gets seven days for evaluation starting 9th January and ending 26th February.
The current Hornet fleet is set to begin being phased out from 2025, and to be completely decommissioned by 2030. The Finnish MoD initiated its Hornet replacement programme in June 2015, and named it the "HX Fighter Program".
America’s Lockheed Martin F-35 and Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet; France’s Dassault Rafale; Sweden’s Saab Gripen and the pan-European Typhoon Eurofighter have all officially lodged bids to provide the next generation fighter jets to replace Finland’s aging Hornet fleet.
“The aim of the testing and evaluation event is to verify that each candidate’s systems and performance values match the data reported by the manufacturers” says Air Force Colonel Juha-Pekka Keränen, who heads up the programme to find the Hornet’s replacement. “The purpose of the HX Challenge is not to rank the candidates, but to make sure that the performance values reported in the responses to the call for tenders actually apply in the Finnish operating environment” explains Keränen.
The aircraft will take part in simulated long-term war games, where the candidate jets will play their roles as part of Finland’s defence systems. In the simulated battles they’ll face the Air Force’s current F/A-18 Hornets and Hawk jet trainers.
The Air Force says the event is taking place in Finland so that each plane can be tested under Finnish winter operating conditions – and also to provide a balanced evaluation for each of the five candidate aircraft. Harsh weather conditions can have an impact on the performance of electro-optical sensors in particular.
Although the aircraft are designed to operate in sub-zero temperatures, the challenges come when the temperatures hover around freezing with snow, sleet or freezing drizzle throwing extra challenges at the jets.