HELSINKI – New fighter jet purchases divide government

Finland’s five-party government is increasingly divided over the purchase of new fighters. With a looming recession and expected budget cuts, pressure from the public to postpone the replacement of the current Hornets or buy less than planned keeps on growing.

Before the COVID-19 crisis erupted in Finland, there was consensus among MPs that Finland would replace its quickly ageing fleet of 64 Hornets with new generation multi-role fighters for €10 billion, and a final decision had been set for 2021.

And between manufacturers, the race is on. The choice will be made between Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, Saab Gripen, Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet and Lockheed Martin F-35. The rumour, strongly denied by Finland’s defence ministry, is that Lockheed may be favourites among the Air Force.

Lockheed has already been chosen by the UK, Italy, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium and Poland. However, in Finland, the name has been tarnished after the Air Force’s ex-Commander,  Jarmo Lindberg, was hired by Lockheed to lobby for it soon after his retirement. And now the so-called HX Program is facing growing turbulence inside the government.

“Our view is that the purchase can be postponed and it can be downsized,” Paavo Arhinmäki, the chairperson of Left Alliance’s parliamentary group, told the Finnish Broadcasting Company on Monday (25 May) in an interview.

However, according to Antti Kurvinen, the chair of the Center Party’s parliamentary group, defending the whole country is worth every cent and the existing fleet should be renewed entirely. “Replacing Hornets should not be postponed. One has to take care of the country’s defence capability and independence also in times of economic hardship,” he said.

 (Pekka Vänttinen | EURACTIV.com)

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