I’m going to explore the “unattractive little facts” about the fighter planes considered in HX-program. Both of these fighters are good and capable fighters that could serve Finland well in Ilmavoimat. They are somewhat mixed bunch as there are both air dominance fighters and light tactical fighters here from the same company Boeing.
USA can offer, apart from F-35, F-15SE and F/A-18 E/F as replacements for HX. I have dissed the F-35 HERE. For all three US fighters I see potential “political” problems. US of A might take a rather heavy handed approach to force a sell, I guess preferably, F-35 to Finland. Even though fighter would not be a good fit for Ilmavoimat.
Otherwise there might be trouble in Congress in missile acquirement or in NATO co-operation. This might apply for the sale Super Hornet and Silent eagle as well. One can also see, perhaps, that all US competitors are more or less in development as a good or a bad thing. BUT there are clouds in Horizon. Boein may close its production facilities in St. Luis if not enough orders are forth coming. This would mean approximately 24 planes a year. So IF US air force and Navy are not committed to F-15 SE and F/A-18 for 20 years at least, it will not be smart to buy them: There will be no facilities to support them for 2019 onward. So this might mean quite aggressive selling campaign for Ilmavoimat. This is the reason I must list these two exelent aircraft in BAD category. Personally I see F-15 Silent Eagle as just what the doctor ordered for Ilmavoimat, but I’m not hopeful that this deal will materialize.
If we go into plane by plane mode:
F/A-18E/F or Advanced Super Hornet
Super Hornet, obviously, already flies but lacks IRST. One can add a litening pod, but I feel that integral IRST is a must at this day and age. There will be basic IRST avalable from 2016 onward and full capability is expected in 2019. So just in time for Finnish Air force.
Steps have been taken to reduce the planes RCS and add range with Conformal fuel tanks. Wing loading goes up a bit compared to F-18C from 454kg/m^2 to 459kg/m^2 and the thrust to weight drops a bit from 0,96 to 0,93. So the kinematic performance suffers a bit. As a result of these changes, combat radius also drops a bit but is still over 720 km. If advanced Super Hornet materializes. One great oppourtunity would be acquiring Growlers for Finnish Air Force. In future air war Finland will need to have both offensive and defensive SEAD and Electronic countermeasures. F-18 G would provide them. You dont need like hundered of Growlers but 10-15 would be much appreciated in air war.
F-15 Silent Eagle is a further development of F-15E Strike Eagle, but is optimized for Air dominance. It can carry same weapons package as Strike Eagle. Steps have been taken to reduce the RCS to make system more survivable in near future air war.
Silent Eagle would also get IRST, so it would then be feasible as air dominance fighter in Northern Skies. Max wing loading is higher than Hornets at 650kg/m^2 (253kg/m² empty) and thrust to weight at 0,93 is lower than F/A-18’s This is in about middle ground between F-35 clean wing loading and loaded wing loading at the max which is 526 kg/m² clean and 745 kg/m² max loaded. So this F-15 is a very manouverable fighter and would serve us well in aerial war.
As an end note. Both of these fighters would do very well in Finland modernized with RIST and other new avionics, but the situation with Boeing should make them unatractive for FDF. IF and ONLY IF one can trust St Luis, Boeing and US Government to be commited into these fighters for next 20-25years they are bust. NO other buyer will purchase the numbers needed to keep upgrading and MLUs going. Unfortunately.