Finland has signed a Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) to purchase sixty-four F-35 Lightning IIs. That makes Finland’s decision in 2021 to purchase American F-35 stealth airplane as the country’s new fighter jet official. The F-35 will replace Finland’s F/A-18 Hornets, an agile, though aged fourth-generation fighter jet.
“The procurement contracts include the deliveries of 64 multi-role fighters in 2025-30 that represent the F-35A Block 4 configuration, aircraft engines and maintenance equipment, systems, spare parts, replacement equipment, training equipment and servicing needed for use and maintenance,” a press release said. “The agreements include F-35 type training for the Defence Forces’ flying and technical personnel.”
The agreement covers not only the stealth fighter but also some of the weaponry that the Finnish F-35s will fly with.
“After the procurement of aircraft and maintenance services, LOA documents will be signed during 2022 on the procurement of air-to-air weapons, the Sidewinder and AMRAAM missiles,” the release said. “In accordance with the procurement proposal submitted to the Government in December 2021, the agreements on procuring air-to-ground and air-to-surface weapons will be made later. This will ensure that the weapon composition can be optimised, for example in terms of the number and types of weapons, so that Finland will have a high-performance F-35 system when entering the 2030s.”
The F-35’s Technology Refresh 3 includes software updates that improve the airplane’s electronic warfare capabilities, a new cockpit display, a radar upgrade, as well as a new core processor. The Refresh is needed in order to leverage the latest Block 4 F-35 configuration.
Part of what sweetened the deal for Finland was an industrial participation agreement that covers the construction of Finnish F-35 front fuselage sections, structural components, and maintenance and equipment testing.
Finnish estimates place the effect of industrial participation on direct domestic employment at 4,500 person-years, while estimating the indirect effect at 1,500 person-years.
Finland’s F-35 decision comes on the heels of Switzerland’s decision last year to purchase thirty-six F-35s, despite the country’s official non-alignment with NATO.
Finland is not a NATO member and is officially an unaligned country. However, historically Finland cultivated its security by maintaining a robust military and an unantagonistic relationship with the Soviet Union, and today Russia. Despite Finland’s nominally neutral stance, the country has relatively close military ties with NATO members.
Helsinki’s decision to buy American F-35s will not only enhance Finland’s aviation capabilities but will also streamline the country’s interoperability with NATO forces.
Caleb Larson is a multimedia journalist and defense writer with the National Interest. A graduate of UCLA, he also holds a Master of Public Policy and lives in Berlin. He covers the intersection of conflict, security, and technology, focusing on American foreign policy, European security, and German society for both print and radio. Follow him on Twitter @calebmlarson.