Finland is buying 64 of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II jets and weapons systems in a deal valued at $9.4 billion dollars.
Finland’s defence ministry announced that the formal purchase agreement for dozens of F-35 fighter jets was signed on Friday.
The F-35A conventional-takeoff jets will be of the Block 4 configuration and replace Finland’s F/A-18C/D fighters, which will be phased out as the new aircraft arrive, starting in 2025.
In addition to providing Finland with a fifth-generation fighter, the deal will provide Finnish companies “high technology engineering and manufacturing economic benefits,” Lockheed Martin F-35 vice president and program manager Bridget Lauderdale said in a press statement.
“The production work will continue for more than 20 years, and the F-35 sustainment work will continue into the 2060s,” Lauderdale said. Finland will produce significant portions of the F-35’s forward fuselage for itself and other customers. It will also produce structural components and “equipment testing and maintenance capability,” the Finnish defense ministry said in a Dec. 10 release. Finnish industry may also be involved in final assembly of the fighter’s F135 engine
The government approved the procurement of the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II multi-role fighters in December. The Hornet fleet is planned to be phased out by 2030.
Industrial participation was a contingency of the sale. Finland told fighter competitors in 2018 that the acquisition had to include industrial offsets valued at 30 percent or more of the eventual contract.
The Finnish defense ministry, in the Dec. 10 release, said the industrial agreement “is to develop and maintain the production, technology and expertise in the defense and security industry that is critical with respect to national defense, state security and functions vital to society, as well as to improve and safeguard the national security of supply.” The ministry said offsets will directly create “4,500 person-years” of jobs in Finland and 1,500 person-years of indirect labor.
The acquisition will be managed through the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program. It includes engines, maintenance equipment, spare parts, training equipment, and service.
A separate letter of acceptance will be signed later this year for the provision of Sidewinder and AMRAAM air-to-air missiles to equip the fighters, and Finland said it will sign agreements for air-to-ground munitions “later.” Finland already has a number of American munitions types that can be carried by the F-35, including the stealth AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile.
The F-35 was selected over the Saab JAS-39 Gripen, Dassault’s Rafale, and the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet version of the fighter Finland has been operating since the 1990s.