Lockheed Martin has officially launched the flight evaluation phase of its F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) for Finland’s HX programme, with a pair of aircraft arriving at Tampere-Pirkkala Airbase north of Helsinki on 9 February.
The two aircraft were part of a flight of four that departed Luke Air Force Base (AFB) in Arizona on 5 February but problems with the aerial refuelling tankers assigned to support the aircraft on their trans-Atlantic crossing meant that only two F-35As were able to make the journey.
Finland has evacuated the Eurofighter Typhoon from 9 to 17 January, the Dassault Rafale from 20 to 28 January, and the Saab Gripen E and GlobalEye airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft from 30 January to 6 February. With the F-35A evaluation set to run through to 17 February, Boeing will conclude proceedings with its F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler aircraft from 18 to 26 February.
For the HX evaluations, Finland is assessing a potential replacement for the air force’s 55 Boeing F/A-18C and seven F/A-18D Hornet fighters. The government’s request for quotations (RFQs) calls for a “capability” to be delivered for EUR10 billion (USD13 billion), which includes the cost of acquiring the aircraft, infrastructure, training, and support from the arrival of the first aircraft in 2025, through the declaration of initial operating capability (IOC) in 2027 and full-operating capability (FOC) in 2030. After this time, support and sustainment funding will move from the acquisition to the operations budget.
The evaluations are being held in three phases against the Finnish Air Force’s concept of operations (CONOPS).
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