Saab Bid Proposes One-for-One Finnish Hornet Replacement

Credit: Saab

Sweden is proposing to replace Finland’s F/A-18 Hornets on a virtual one-for-one basis by offering 64 Gripen fighters for Helsinki’s €9 billion ($10.9 billion) HX fighter requirement. 

Revealing details of its best and final offer for the Finnish fighter tender on April 30, Saab’s proposal features only the single-seat Gripen E aircraft, and not the two-seat Gripen F being developed in conjunction with Brazil. 

As well as the 64 fighters, Sweden has included a pair of GlobalEye swing-role surveillance aircraft based on the Bombardier Global 6000 business jet. 

All five competitors in the HX contest submitted their best and final offers to the Finnish defense ministry on April 29, but so far only two have revealed the number of aircraft they would offer. Boeing reportedly told Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat that it is proposing 50 F/A-18E Super Hornets and 14 EA-18G Growler electronic warfare platforms, a proposal that virtually matches its Foreign Military Sale approvals last October.  

Finland purchased 64 F/A-18 Hornets in the 1990s. Two have subsequently been lost.  

The Finnish defense ministry previously said that the HX bidders had struggled to meet initial calls for a 60-plus aircraft fleet within the set budget. But it appears that several suitors  have been able to restructure their proposals to meet or get closer to that number. 

Lockheed Martin also confirmed it has proposed a “total package” for the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter that had been tailored to fit Finland’s security of supply and operational needs in what the OEM described as a “closed border scenario.”  

The F-35 OEM also said its offer included “many first-of-a-kind opportunities for Finnish industry to work directly on F-35 production and sustainment.” F-35 numbers have not been mentioned, but Helsinki’s request to the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency had called for 64 aircraft.  

The Eurofighter consortium Finland campaign led by the UK government has not said how many aircraft it is offering. Instead it said it would deliver “sufficient Eurofighter aircraft to meet the challenge set by Finland to replace its existing capability.” 

So far Dassault and the French government have not released any details or a statement about their proposal, and emailed questions to Dassault have gone unanswered. 

The proposals- for the Gripen E-only fleet are in response to a “close dialogue with the Finnish customer,” said Magnus Skogberg, Saab’s Gripen campaign director for Finland. 

“We want to really maximize the number of Gripen aircraft and we see that there are no formal requirements for a two-seater and it is not a must to have that for the training,” Skogberg said. 

Such a view also appears to be reflected in Boeing’s offer. The FMS deal had originally included several two-seat F/A-18F aircraft. 

Among the weapons being offered in the Gripen package are the Diehl IRIS-T and MBDA Meteor air-to-air missiles, the MBDA Spear 3 small diameter standoff weapon and the KEPD350 Taurus air-launched cruise missile. Saab is also proposing its Electronic Attack Jammer Pod (EAJP) and the company’s Lightweight Air-Launched Decoy Missile (LADM), which is being developed with support from Finnish industry. Images of the LADM show it to have a similar configuration to the MBDA Spear 3, with Saab stating it hopes to use the same triple launcher for that weapon to release the LADM. 

Some 20% of the proposal’s price tag is dedicated to the weapons package, Saab says. 

Saab is also proposing local assembly of a “large proportion of the aircraft” in Finland, Skogberg said. That would also allow local industry to learn how to support the aircraft.  

There would also be local assembly for the engine and the creation of a systems center where Finnish technicians could add new capabilities to the aircraft and update mission data packages. 

Swedish Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Carl-Johan Edström added that a Finnish selection of Gripen and GlobalEye would prompt greater Swedish alignment and result in a GlobalEye purchase to replace its air surveillance fleet of Saab 340-based ASC890 platforms. Sweden would also integrate the KEPD350 Taurus missile onto its new Gripen Es and invest in the electronic warfare and attack capabilities provided by the EAJP and LADM systems. 

All five bidders have been asked to budget their programs with a price ceiling of €9 billion. As well as aircraft and weapons, the packages also need to include initial training, maintenance support and spares. 

Evaluation of the final bids begins in May, with each bid evaluated for its military performance, cost, security of supply and industrial cooperation. Operating and maintenance costs of the future fighter fleet must be less than 10% of the annual defense budget. 

Helsinki is expected to announce the chosen platform at year’s end. 

Tony Osborne

Based in London, Tony covers European defense programs. Prior to joining Aviation Week in November 2012, Tony was at Shephard Media Group where he was deputy editor for Rotorhub and Defence Helicopter magazines.