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US refuses to sell air-to-ground missiles for Finland’s Hornet jets


US refuses to sell air-to-ground missiles for Finland’s Hornet jets
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Officials in the Untied States have rejected a preliminary request by Finland to buy JASSM air-to-ground missiles for the US-made Hornet F-18 jet fighters used by the Finnish Air Force.
      Finland inquired about the purchase last autumn as part of an extensive package aimed at implementing MLU2 - the second phase of the modernisation of the Air Force’s fleet of 62 jets.
      The Americans had no objections to Finnish requests in other respects. Finland will thus be allowed to buy missiles to attack radar stations, as well as NATO-standard Link 16 data exchange devices.
     
Weapons export licences have traditionally been seen as sensitive barometers of political relations between countries. Refusing to allow Finland to buy JASSM missiles suggests that relations between Finland and the US are perhaps not in as good shape as had been suggested.
      On the other hand, JASSM missiles have only been sold to one other country so far - Australia, which is one of the closest allies of the US in Iraq.
      "JASSM was on our lists, but we got a negative response. Now we must consider whether or not to renew the request", says Air Force commander, Lieutenant General Heikki Lyytinen.
     
JASSM and the whole MLU2 (Mid-Life Update 2) are linked with the Finland’s expansion of its air defences (with a new focus on the use of jet fighters) to air-to-ground attack capability.
      The Hornets are well suited for such tasks, but significant changes must first be made to the plane’s computer software. However, the updates of the software of the F-18C/D models are being phased out in the USA, as the Americans themselves are upgrading to the new F-18E/F versions.
      Therefore, the producers of MLU2 have no time to waste. Lyytinen says that Finland does not have the resources to produce the computer programmes independently. This means that the most important decisions on the MLU2 need to be made in the coming months.
     
The Finnish Air Force wants a cruise missile of the JASSM type which can be launched from a very long distance. The JASSM’s range of operations is more than 320 kilometres, according to its manufacturer Lockheed Martin.
     
Other precision weapon options include the German-Swedish Taurus and the American SLAM-ER. They can also destroy targets at a range of hundreds of kilometres, and would add unprecedented depth to the activities of the Finnish Defence Forces.
      Lyytinen says that the costs of the MLU2 cannot be assessed yet. Although the decisive equipment choices must be made quite soon, the purchases themselves will not take place before the next decade.
      Defence budget funding is coming from 2011, and all of the Hornets will be ready for MLU2 conversion in about 2015. The first Hornet to have undergone the first phase of modernisation will be ready already this spring.


Helsingin Sanomat


  5.2.2007 - TODAY
 US refuses to sell air-to-ground missiles for Finland’s Hornet jets

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