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Finland to Pick F-35 for Hornet Replacement

F-35 Steals Competition from Cheaper, Older Gen 4 Competition in Surprise Win

Finland's upcoming replacement for their aging Boeing F/A-18C/D Hornets has reportedly been chosen, with the rumor mill kicking into high gear prior to any official Ministry of Defense announcement. The deal is expected to buy ~65 of America's top of the line F-35, a surprise selection to some, as the platform had been seen by leaked Finnish documentation as exceedingly expensive compared to the competition.

The contenders for the Finnish Air Force multirole fighter included the successor to their legacy aircraft, the Super Hornet, the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Dassault Rafale, and the Saab Gripen E. Each plane had a number of aspects in its favor, ranging from the Hornet's commonality in training and equipment already in inventory, to the Gripen's affordable and neighborly Swedish manufacture. Lockheed Martin's F-35 is notoriously expensive, having blown through multiple budgets throughout its life as it experienced a gamut of issues common to simultaneous low-rate initial production and development. The upside of widespread adoption, however, is the compendium of knowledge, accessories, and worldwide support that could defray expenses going forward. The selection is slated to serve through 2060, making the F-35 the only future-proof (better said, "future-resistant") option as the sole available 5th generation fighter on the market. While some 4th generation aircraft have seen radar and avionics improvements achieve a claimed 4.5th generation, stealth capability is vital in advanced air defense zones inherent to contested, near-peer airspace. The Finns most likely peered into their crystal ball and saw that a few dozen years from now, their foresight will be appreciated despite the cost. 

The tender is expected to include a series of ancillary equipment for the Lightning, possibly simulators as was debated throughout the process. A boon to countries trying to minimize costly flight hours on menial training, virtual flight can bridge the gap between entry-level flight ops and advanced, risk-free emergency practice for a fraction of the cost per flight hour. Saab's contending Gripen deal was proposed to not only include the desired 64 jets, but 2 GlobalEye EWACS aircraft, an extensive assortment of armaments, and an industrial program to put domestic manufacturing and support in Finland's homeland. It was a difficult choice, given the country's proximity to Russia and the northern passage. Finland has always occupied a strange political place between the East and West, and increasing interest in the Nordic/Arctic regions may push it further into a place of increased strategic importance. 



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