HELSINKI – Modernising air defence

By 26 February the skies over Finland will be occupied by the crème de la crème of fighter planes. The country has decided to modernise its air defence capability and replace its long-serving sixty-four Hornets with a new generation fighter.

The project has now entered a testing phase, HX Challenge, where the candidates will have to prove themselves. Bidding for a contract are Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault Rafale, Saab Gripen, Lockheed Martin F-35 and Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet. Each of them will be tested for a week in every imaginable combat situation designed to be as realistic as possible. The ordeal is said to include everything from one-on-one battles to coping against antiaircraft missiles.

A decision on the successor will made by the government in 2021. The contract is worth €10 billions, and the new fighters are set to enter service in 2025.

Currently, the Finnish defence sector is in the midst of a spending spree. The government has also authorised the construction of new battleships. In the Squadron 2020 project, older vessels will be replaced by four multi-role corvettes that should be ready by 2028. Built in the Finnish Rauma docks, the project is worth €1.3 billion. Waiting next in line within the next two years is the purchase of surface-to-air missiles.

Defence spending is set to account for 5.5% of the national budget, and a mere 1.27% of GDP in 2020.

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