Frag Out! Magazine

Frag Out! Magazine #31

Frag Out! Magazine

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Page 39 of 187

The matters listed above, the condition in which the Polish Air Force finds itself (as op- posed to its foreign counterparts) altogether create a good opportunity to review the cur- rent status and modernization plans adopted by selected Western European nations. FINLAND The Finnish Air Force is a very important com- ponent of Finland's national security system. This can be seen in the expenditure that is dedicated to the improvement of the Finnish Air Force's potential. Currently, Finland uti- lizes the F/A-18C/D Hornets as the primary platform. The Hornets were procured in 1992, while the first one was delivered three years later. Currently Ilmavoimat - Flygvapnet op- erates 62 jets that form two tactical aviation squadrons. The jets, throughout their lifecycle, went through several upgrade programs. The air combat capabilities of the Finnish Hornets have been improved through the integration of the AIM-9X and AIM-120C5 anti-aircraft mis- siles and helmet-mounted cueing systems. The air-to-ground capabilities meanwhile have been expanded via integration of the JDAM bombs, JSOW gliding bombs, or JASSM cruise missiles. Modernization of the IFF sys- tem, integration of MIDS data exchange termi- nals and communication systems, upgrade of the self-defense suite, and replacement of the cockpit instrumentation have all led to an improvement of the pilots' situational aware- ness. Despite the broad scope of moderniza- tion, the Finnish Hornets have been slowly ap- proaching the end of their lifecycle for some time now. The replacement is to be selected within the framework of the HX program that originat- ed early during the last decade, when the analytical effort began with regards to the future requirements associated with the fu- ture, manned- or unmanned, air platform, as well as its missions and execution of those missions. Formally, however, the HX program was launched in 2015. RFI sent to the western manufacturers of multi-role combat aircraft was issued in 2016. Based on the responses, the potential offered by each of the offered platforms and the associated training/logis- tics package was thoroughly assessed. This, meanwhile, made it possible to narrow down the pool of aircraft to five types: - F/A-18E/F Super Hornet - Lockheed Martin F-35A - Dassault Rafale - Eurofighter - Saab JAS-39E Gripen The relevant tendering procedure began in mid-2018 - with invitations and offer requests being sent to the manufacturers. The respons- es received initiated the dialogue and consult- ing/negotiation process established by and between the Finnish government and the bid- ders. The so-called HX Challenge has been an- other milestone along the way, organized early in 2020. The aircraft offered were deployed to Finland, where they underwent testing aimed at verifying the actual capabilities of the on- board systems locally. The challenge was also aimed at verifying whether the aircraft are as good in the air, as they are on paper. The information gathered would also be used to evaluate the usability of each of the offered platforms, as an element of the Finnish Armed Forces as a comprehensive system. As announced by the Finnish Ministry of Defence, the deadline for submitting the BAFO (Best and Final Offer) was postponed - and this has been caused by the COVID-19 pan- demic restrictions since the original schedule assumed that this would happen in August. It is planned now for this to happen in late 2020 or early 2021. The delay would also apply to the deadline set for the announcement of the winning bid. Still, that announcement is ex- pected to take place in 2021. The initial assumptions behind the HX pro- gram suggested that Finland would be willing to procure 64 fighter aircraft that would, con- sequently, replace the Hornets 1:1. The recent information, however, suggests that this rigid quantitative criterion has been abandoned. What would play the key role in the selection is the holistic assessment of the system that can be delivered by the bidder. Secondly, the

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