Who Will Win HX Fighter Jet Program As Dassault Rafale Competes With F-35, Gripen, Typhoon & Super Hornets?

Finland has received final quotations from aerospace giants for its HX fighter competition where Dassault Rafale, Saab Gripen, Stealth F-35 Jets, F/18 Super Hornets aim to replace the country’s aging F-18C/D Hornets.

Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Saab, Dassault and Eurofighter are all pitching their fighter jets, making it a truly western aircraft supremacy contest.

This procurement program is also interesting as most of the modern fourth and fifth-generation fighter jets are competing against each other, where Helsinki would choose the best out of Lockheed Martin’s F-35A Lightning II, Boeing’s F-18E/F Super Hornet/Growlers, Saab’s JAS-39E Gripen, Dassault Rafale C/B (presumably F3-R), and the Eurofighter Typhoon.

In June 2015, a working group set up by the Finnish MoD proposed starting the so-called HX program to replace the Finnish Air Force’s current fleet of F/A-18 Hornets. In December 2015, the Finnish MoD sent a letter to the UK, France, Sweden and the United States, informing that the fighter project was launched in the Defence Forces.

The goal of the project is to replace the Hornet fleet, which will be decommissioned as of 2025, with multi-role fighters, and the project has been named HX Fighter Program.

The request for information concerning the program was sent in early 2016; the five responses were received in November 2016.

The Finnish government asked all the aforementioned companies to submit their final proposals by April 30 for the contract which might worth over €10 billion (US$12 billion).

The contract also includes the “technical systems, training systems, necessary maintenance equipment, test equipment, and spare parts, along with weapons, sensors and other support equipment.”

US aviation giant Boeing’s offer reportedly includes 50 F/A-18 Block III Super Hornets and 14 EA-18G Growlers for a total of 64 aircraft.

In a short statement issued on Twitter, Boeing said: “It’s official: we have submitted our best and final offer in response to Finland’s #HXHanke. Our offer includes options for the F/A-18 Block III #SuperHornet, the electronic warfare #EA18G Growler and a robust industrial engagement plan for the Finnish industry.”

The Super Hornet could be one of the best options for the Finnish Air Force as it already has the required technical infrastructure to operate the new aircraft, and it would even be possible to perform assembly of the aircraft or manufacture components in the country.

Boeing’s statements to the website Air Force Technology, read, “You could have a hornet flying today and a super hornet flying tomorrow.”

Another American manufacturer on the list, Lockheed Martin, flaunts its latest fifth-generation fighter F-35A Lightning II, by offering lucrative deals.

Not just the new technologies associated with this flying computer, F-35 program vice president and general manager Bridget Lauderdale had said: “The F-35 will provide Finnish industries high technology job opportunities that no other competitor can offer.”

“The production work will continue for more than 20 years, and the F-35 sustainment work will continue into the 2050s. Not only will Finland support its own F-35s, but it will directly support the global fleet of F-35s through the production of major components,” he added.

While Eurofighter and Dassault remain a bit tight-lipped over their offerings, Saab has come up with perhaps an offer Finland cannot easily refuse.

In a major upgrade for the Finnish Air Force, Saab is offering 64 of its latest Gripen-E fighter aircraft, along with two GlobalEye Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) aircraft. The Saab offer includes several advanced weapons systems, including Meteor, IRIS-T, SPEAR and KEPD350/Taurus.

The additional offering, the GlobalEye, is a multi-role airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) platform based on the Bombardier Global 6000 aircraft and was initially developed for its lead customer UAE.

“Our offering to Finland, combining Gripen E/F and GlobalEye as force multipliers, will protect Finland’s people and borders, by delivering both comprehensive situational awareness and a true deterrence effect,” the company said in a statement last year.

According to Air Force Technology, the company said it would also establish a “Gripen & GlobalEye System Centre” in Finland designed to ensure “independent operations and continuous capability growth of the systems until 2060”.

The Finnish government is anticipated to take a final decision over the aircraft by the end of 2021. However, this cannot be taken as “which fighter is the best” competition.

Rather, the aircraft along with logistics, maintenance, and sustainability within the Finnish Air Force’s operational requirements framework would be a major factor in determining the winner.

These aircraft have had their fair share of combat testing and development. Nevertheless, it would be really interesting to see which is the ultimate Western champion for Finland.