Contrary to reports from Helsinki in April, the US Departement of Defense will not offer the Boeing F-15 Eagle and Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon to Finland as possible replacements for the country’s fleet of ‘legacy’ F-18 Hornets. Washington told Helsinki it will not respond to Finland’s Request for Information (RfI) for those jets, Finnish MoD confirmed on Monday 2 May. Washington however will send information on the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet and Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.
Both the F-15 and F-16 were named on a list of candidates released by Helsinki in April. Both were designed in the 70s and are nearing the end of production in the US. Their inclusion in Finland’s list – and the inclusion of the F-15 in particular – came as a surprise to many, although officials earlier said that Finland was open to all offers that met the conditions of the HX-fighter project. That is the name assigned to the F-18 Hornet replacement program.
The candidates now left in that program, are the Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, Boeing F-18 Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin F-35 and Saab’s next generation JAS-39 Gripen. The latter will see its rollout of the factory in Sweden on 18 May.
All manufacturers will have to send Helsinki all required information by the end of this year. Comparison of the performances of all jets is scheduled for 2018 and a final decision is expected not before 2021.
The Finnish ministry of Defense formally started the process for replacing its F-18 Hornets this week by sending out a Request for Information (RfI) to various aircaft manufacturers. Helsinki asks those manufacturers to respond by the end of this year, but expects a final decision no sooner than 2021.
The nordic country wants more info on the Boeing F-15 Eagle and F/A-18 Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, Lockheed Martin F-16 and F-35, plus Saab the nex generation Gripen. The odd one in that list the F-15, a type that wasn’t widely named in the Finnish quest for a F-18 Hornet replacement before.
The RfI should have been handed out several months ago, but ‘logistic’ problems caused delays. Helsinki states the acquisition is ‘very large and complex’ ad therefore will take time. Comparison of the performances of all jets is scheduled for 2018.
The current F-18 Hornets should start leaving Finnish Air Force service in 2025, with the last one gone by 2030.
A knowing smile. During multinational military exercise Frisian Flag at Leeuwarden airbase, that’s all US Air National Guard general Eric Vollmecke has to offer about this week’s surprise deployment of US F-22 Raptors to the UK. This year’s edition of Frisian Flag will have to make do with the Raptor’s predecessor, the F-15C Eagle.
Last year’s participation left US Eagle drivers wanting more. No surprise for the exercise that has earned it’s credits in the world of military air combat. It’s something to be proud of, says airbase commander Denny Traas. And yes, he doesn’t mind playing host to some Raptors at some time in the future.
Whereas terms like coalition, leadership and multinational cooperation are usually the talk of the town during Frisian Flag, this Tuesday it’s Raptors what it’s all about. Sure, Leeuwarden is filled to the brim with advanced warplanes, but none quite so advanced as the F-22s currently in the UK, merely 30 minutes flying time away. Traas: “We are always looking for new aircraft types to bring to Frisian Flag, each with its own capabilities and its own limitations.”
The goal of Frisian Flag is to make participating air crews aware of each aircraft type’s characteristics. That knowledge enables pilots to put together large and mixed formations of military aircraft in an effective way. It turns pilots into leaders and single nations into a partner in today’s multinational military coalitions.
At Leeuwarden, that coalition consists of the Netherlands, Germany, France, Belgium, the US, the UK, Finland and Poland, each sending warplanes to Leeuwarden. Their jet noise shakes the airbase twice each day for two weeks. It’s when the aircraft take off and head to the training areas over the North Sea. The impressive stream of fighter aircraft easily attracts hundreds of aviation enthusiasts – plus as many noise complaints from the neighbouring town.
Once in the training areas, the participants engage threats in the air and on the ground. It offers a welcome change to refresh skills that perhaps are dormant in current live operations over Syria and Iraq, where air-to-air combat is non-exsistent. Base commander Traas: “Frisian Flag fills that gap and results in pilots that are ready for any scenario at any time, with no lead times needed. We train any scenario here at Leeuwarden, not just those modeled after current campaigns.” Given recent events, has a scenario featuring a large scale conflict involving Russia maybe been taking out of the drawer after resting there for two decades? Another knowing but silent smile, from Traas this time.
Both Finland and Poland would benefit from such a scenario. At the same time, neither country has taken part in recent ops over the Middle East, although Poland ponders to do so. “This is one of the most imporant exercises for us each year, along with the Tiger Meet”, says a Polish Air Force F-16 pilot. Despite not having actual combat experience, the Polish Air Force – celebrating ten years of F-16 operations later this year – bring something valuable to Leeuwarden. Traas: “They are the only ones bringing advanced F-16Cs, just like the Finnish are the only ones bringing F-18 Hornets. Again, the more aircraft types, the better.”
As far as US Air National Guard pilot David ‘Moon’ Halasi-Kun is concerned, there’s still not much better than the F-15C Eagle behind him. “It is still the most highly capable and proven air superiority fighter in existence. The F-15 with its active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar brings very unique capabilities, just as the F-22 with its stealthiness brings unique capabilities.” Combined, the two deliver air dominance, says ‘Moon’.
Together with 40 or so other Eagle pilots from the Massachusetts and California Air National Guards, ‘Moon’ for the next six months augments US firepower over Europe. Frisian Flag marks the start of the deployment, which should see the aircraft and crew head further into Europe.
According to Leeuwarden base commander Denny Traas, there is a ‘fair chance’ that Frisian Flag will hosts another non-European air force in the future. Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) observers are closely watching the current exercise. Raptors or Australian F-18 Super Hornets in the future? Well, why not have both? Because yes, the more, the better in the air combat household name that now is Frisian Flag.
Finland is about the issue a request for propopsal (RfP) to five aircraft manufacturers for a replacement for its ageing F-18 Hornets, sources in the Nordic country state on Wednesday 2 December. The five companies are Dassault, Saab, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin and Boeing.
Lockheed Martin will likely be asked about the F-35 Lightning II, while Boeing is to pitch the F/A-18 Super Hornet, which is in deperate need of sales to keep production going. BAE Systems is to inform Helsinki about the Eurofighter Typhoon.
The replacement of roughly 60 Hornets is said to cost anywhere between 7 and 11 billion USD, Finnish sources say. A decision likely is still a few years away.
Finland accepted its very first F-18 Hornet in 1995 and the last one only five years later. Most aircraft were assembled by Patria Finavitec Oy. Among other tasks, the Finnish Air Forces uses the fighter jets to fend off Russian aircraft snooping around over the Baltic Sea.
One of the largest military exercises of Europe kicked off on 25 May 2015. A third of the airspace of Sweden and giant areas – air, sea and ground – of the north of Finland and Norway serve as a training area for the Arctic Challenge Exercise 2015, or ACE15, lasting until 5 June 2015. Call it the Scandinavian Red Flag if you want.
The line-up of participating aircraft is impressive. Serving mainly from Bodø Airbase in Norway, Luleå-Kallax in Sweden and Rovaniemi in Finland, a total of 120 planes and 4,000 personnel are joining the simulated combat scenarios.
Combat element: 110
16 Boeing (McDonnell Douglas) F-18C/D Hornets of the Finnish Air Force
8 Boeing (McDonnell Douglas) F/A-18C/D Hornets of the Swiss Air Force
12 Lockheed Martin (General Dynamics) F-16AM/BM of the Royal Norwegian Air Force
18 SAAB JAS 39C/D Gripens of the Swedish Air Force
12 Lockheed Martin (General Dynamics) F-16AM/BM Fighting Falcon of the Royal Danish Air Force
12 Lockheed Martin (General Dynamics) F-16CG from the 510th Fighter Squadron (Aviano AB) of the US Air Force
12 Eurofighter EF2000 of the German Air Force
8 Mirage 2000 of the French Air Force
8 Panavia Tornado GR4 of the Royal Air Force
4 British Aerospace Hawk of the Royal Air Force
Electronic warfare & command element: 6
1 SAAB ASC-890 AEW&C aircraft of the Swedish Air Force
1 Dassault Falcon DA-20 of the Royal Norwegian Air Force
2 Dassault Falcon DA-20 of Cobham, on behalf of the Royal Air Force
1 Pilatus PC-9 of GfD, on behalf of the German Air Force
1 Learjet 35 of GfD, on behalf of the German Air Force
Tanker element: 4
1 Lockheed C-130AAR (KC-130) in-flight refuelling aircraft of the Swedish Air Force
1 Airbus Voyager (A330 MRTT) of the Royal Air Force (AirTanker)
1 Airbus A310 MRTT of the German Air Force
1 McDonnel Douglas KDC-10 of the Royal Netherlands Air Force
Rotary support: 1
1 NHIndustries NH90 or a Aérospatiale Super Puma of the Swedish Air Force
ACE15 plans to fly during two mission periods a day. The line-up and ambitions of ACE15 are larger than the first edition of ACE in 2013, when 90 aircraft and 2,000 personnel participated.