Mid-Life update of Hornets is second-largest weapons deal in Finnish military history
Planes that cost EUR 3 billion to buy will be upgraded for EUR 1.6 billion
The Finnish Air Force is starting the second phase of the renewal programme of its F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets. The aim is to secure the usability of the aircraft introduced in Finland in 1995 past the year 2020 and to equip the planes for their original purpose.
“The Hornet was designed to be a strike fighter jet that would fight its way to the target, deliver the payload, and fight its way back”, explains Air Force commander Major-General Jarmo Lindberg.
So far the aircraft have only been used as interceptors against aerial targets, which is the sole role the Finnish Air Force planes have been deployed in since the Second World War. Now the Hornets are to be converted into assault fighters as well, by equipping them with bombs, glide bombs, and air-to-ground missiles.
The purchase comes with a hefty price-tag.
The two-step programme’s first phase, MLU (Mid-Life Update) 1, costs EUR 325 million. The exact cost of MLU 2 is anybody’s guess, as not all equipment acquisitions have been agreed upon yet.
Experts within the Air Force suspect, however, that the second phase with its missiles etc. would come with a price-ticket of around EUR 1.3 billion.
Hence the total sum would be in the region of EUR 1,625 million. That would make the upgrade programme the second most expensive military purchase in Finnish peacetime history, right after the original Hornet deal. The 64 planes cost Finland EUR three billion.
The MLU money will buy Finland even more efficient fighter jets with a slightly postponed expiration date.
The renewal work for the last jets to get a makeover is scheduled to be completed by the defence and aerospace equipment supplier Patria in 2015.
Five years after that, a sizeable number of the Hornets will already be nearing the end of their service-life, Lindberg explains. Getting spare parts alone would prove quite a challenge after 2025.
The aim of MLU 1 is to improve the Hornets’ capabilities in close-range air-to-air combat. The most significant improvements are the pilot’s helmet-mounted sight and the new AIM9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile.
The helmet-mounted sights are already in use with all three of Finland’s Hornet squadrons. New missiles will be received next year. The mid-range AMRAAM missiles will also be renewed.
MLU 2 has two aims, Lindberg enlightens. One is the air-to-ground or assault capability and the other is compatibility with the NATO systems.
For the air-to-ground operations, three types of weaponry will be acquired.
One is a missile that could be fired from hundreds of kilometres away from its target.
At least last year, the United States was still reluctant to sell the JASSM missiles coveted by Finland. Finland will renew its request in the near future.
For shorter distances the so-called glide bombs, without a power source of their own, will be used.
Finland plans to at least test the AGM-154C JSOW bomb. According to Lindberg, Finland also aims to test JDAM “smart” munitions.
All these plans call for large-scale changes to the aircraft's computer software.
A counter-purchase clause will be added to some of the large-scale deals.
Previously in HS International Edition:
US refuses to sell air-to-ground missiles for Finland´s Hornet jets (5.2.2007)
Finnish Air Force F-18 Hornet (Wikipedia)
Finnish Air Force: Hornet 10 years in Finland