Finland has held initial negotiations with five potential bidders for its H-X contest aimed at replacing the country's fleet of 62 Boeing F/A-18C/Ds.

Project manager Lauri Puranen, writing in a blog post on the Finnish defence ministry website, says all five airframers involved were invited to participate in "pre-bid dialogue".

This, he says, was to allow both sides to better understand the contract parameters and the industrial offset proposed for Finnish industry.

"I can say that all the manufacturers have taken the challenge seriously and are striving to provide Finland with the best possible overall package," says Puranen.

He stresses that the defence ministry has no favourite among the bidders and "none of the candidates have a better or worse status".

Preliminary offers are expected by the end of January 2019, with improved bids leading to a final decision in 2021. Deliveries are forecast to begin in 2025.

Helsinki's five-strong shortlist includes the Boeing F-18, Dassault Rafale, Lockheed Martin F-35 and Saab Gripen, as well as the Eurofighter Typhoon in a bid led by BAE Systems.