Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven tells Yle that a Finnish decision to buy its future fleet of fighter jets from Sweden would ease cooperation between the neighbouring countries.
Speaking on Yle TV1’s Ykkösaamu programme on Saturday, Löfven stressed that the bilateral relations will not depend on where Finland decides to procure the planes – a deal that could be worth up to 20 billion euros in the long run.
The choice of which type of aircraft to buy is one of the biggest decisions facing Finland’s next cabinet, expected to take office next month. The Saab Gripen is among five aircraft models under consideration.
Just over a year ago, the Finnish Ministry of Defence called for bids for 64 fighter aircraft to replace its ageing fleet of 64 Boeing F/A-18C/D Hornets.
Besides Sweden’s Gripen, the ministry asked France, the UK and the US to send quotations for Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter and Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet planes. It received responses from all five manufacturers by the end of January.
Löfven underlined that Finnish-Swedish relations are not dependent on where Finland decides to acquire its fighters.
"First of all, I respect the Finnish political process and its independence in decision-making,” said Löfven. “It is however clear that cooperation is easier if we are both using the same material. The Gripen is a fantastically good plane.”
Lifetime costs could reach €20bn
Finland estimates that the purchase price will be 7-10 billion euros. That does not include lifespan expenditures, which may end up being more than the initial acquisition price.
The government is to make a final decision on the matter in 2021. The original Hornets, bought in 1992, are to be phased out by 2025.
In 2017, US President Donald Trump falsely stated that Finland had already decided to buy more Hornet jets, a claim that was later refuted by his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinistö.
In general, Löfven said he is satisfied with defence cooperation between the two countries. He added that it has been noticed “elsewhere in the world” that Finland and Sweden “take responsibility for their immediate vicinity”.
The Nordic neighbours are not Nato members, but both have ‘enhanced membership’ in the alliance’s Partnership for Peace programme. That includes frequent joint military exercises with Nato countries, including mutual neighbour Norway.