Finland's air force chief of staff has signed for the delivery of his service's first BAE Systems Hawk 51A jet trainer to have undergone an avionics upgrade by domestic firm Patria.
"Thanks to Patria for such an innovative upgrade, and to CMC for the great Cockpit 4000," says Maj Gen Jarmo Lindberg. "The Hawk has been the cornerstone of Finnish air force training for years, and the life extension has brought new capabilities all the way to 2030. Now we have secured Finnish air force pilot training for the future."
Receiving the logbook for aircraft HW-352 (below) represents the first step in the air force's road to fielding a first batch of 11 improved Hawk 51/51As. Four more will be delivered this year, says Patria executive vice-president Jukka Holkeri.
Helsinki has already voiced its intention to modify another 18 Mk 66 Hawk airframes acquired from surplus Swiss air force stocks, which along with a development example - which first flew in modified form last September - will increase the air force's overall fleet to 30 modernised trainers.
The availability of the upgraded Hawk fleet also supports the proposed establishment of a Nordic Pilot Training Centre (NPTC) in Finland, which Holkeri says could accommodate its first students within "a couple of months" of a contract commitment from an international customer.
Lindberg says "the legal groundwork" has already been completed to launch the NPTC scheme, and describes the initiative as beneficial to the air force's future activities. "It will bring motivation and quality to our own personnel," he says.
Patria is meanwhile interested in selling 30 surplus Finnish Hawks to other air forces. "They are available for other operators to buy," says Holkeri. "They will need life extension, but they are good aircraft and have been well maintained. They would offer a cost-effective solution for 20 years."