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Finland kicks-off F/A-18 replacement process

Finland has notified five manufacturers of its intention to seek bids for its HX fighter-replacement programme, which will see it replace its 61-strong Boeing F/A-18C/D Hornet fleet.

On 16 December, the Finnish ministry of defence notified the governments of France, Sweden, the UK and the USA that it will be seeking information on seven aircraft types from five different manufacturers.

Requests for information (RFI) will be issued by March 2016, Finland says, which will include the Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault Rafale, Saab Gripen, Boeing F-18 and F-15, and Lockheed Martin F-35 and F-16.

Replies to the RFI are to be submitted to Helsinki by the end of October 2016, with the contest to be launched in “spring 2018”, followed by a selection in 2021.

HX was introduced in October after a working group recommended the F-18s be replaced with new multi-role fighters, concluding extending the life of the Hornet fleet would not be cost-effective.

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The current F-18 fleet will be phased out by 2025, and Helsinki estimates it will take around 15 years to introduce the new capability.

Finland operates 54 single-seater F-18Cs and seven two-seater F-18Ds, that are nearing 20 years in age, Flightglobal’s Fleets Analyzer database shows.

Regionally, neighbouring Sweden operates the Gripen while Norway recently committed to a planned acquisition of 52 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.

Denmark operates the ageing F-16A/B and is in the process of deciding on a replacement which many believe will be the F-35A, as Copenhagen was previously involved in the JSF's development stage.

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