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Finnish Defence Forces to replace aging Hornet fighter fleet

If the fleet is replaced with new jets, it will cost an estimated 6 billion euros. How its replaced will also signal Finland's future defence strategy: whether to go solo, join forces with Sweden, or enter the NATO alliance.

Replacing the Hornet fleet could cost up to 6 billion euros. Image: Vesa Vaarama / Yle

The Ministry of Defence has commissioned a working group to investigate what type of air defence system Finland needs in the future. Replacing the aging Hornet fighter fleet will cost an estimated 6 billion euros. Owing to the hefty price tag, the working group is also looking to see whether its possible to upgrade the existing fleet, which has been in service since 1995.

"Technical developments need to be taken into account as do the changing needs of our defence environment, which is what we're investigating," says Lauri Puranen, who is responsible for Ministry of Defence acquisitions.

"A 30-year old Formula 1 car can't survive in this world, and we need to find out if a 30-year old fighter jet can," says Puranen.

The preliminary working group will not take a stand on the type or number of planes that should be purchased. To provide some context, neighbour Norway recently chose a new generation of F-35 Hornets. In Finland, the new version of the familiar fighter jet family seems to be favoured -- in spite of their very high price tag. The new fighter jets would be the most expensive defence acquisition in the next decade and take place in about 2030.

According to the Defence Forces, the brand of the current fleet does not affect future decision-making.

"When it's time to leave the Hornets, we are not tied to them or anyone else for that matter," says General Jarmo Lindberg, Commander of the Finnish Defence Forces.

After the preliminary report, decision-makers will also have to decide whether Finnish air defence will be carried out solo, by joining forces with neighbour Sweden, or entering into the NATO alliance.

According to Lindberg, Finnish airspace will only be protected by Finns using their own fleet.

Sources: Yle

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