Now I have caught up in reading so much, that I may have something worth while to say about HX-program the good fighter planes. To the good aeropalenes for Ilmavoimat I feel would be Eurofihǵhter Typhoon Dassault Rafale, SAAB jas-39 Gripen also lockheed-Martins F-16. All would be good planes to be had, and could well be the next object of wet dreams for all boys and men in Finland.
I have written before, in Finnish unfortunately, that any number of airplanes under 100 is not enough to cover the vast area of Finland. The current 60 planes for the airforce is just too little. And it is too little because one former dictator by the name of Josef Stalin decided that that number was just enough planes for Finns to have, so that Soviet Union could wipe them from the sky fast enough if they needed to take over the country.
Also the maintenance requirements of having the airplane taken care of can but a bit of a dent to the number of planes available also important thing to factory in here is the need for dedicated suppression of enemys air defenses (SEAD, Growler or Wild Weasel, what do you prefer) plane that will be needed in Finland’s next air war. Russia has developed an excellent air defense missile series in s-300 and s-400. Range of these systems are enough of the cover most of Finland with only some western parta not covered by the Russian air defenses. Talking this into mind, in cartoon terms, Finnish air force will be needing a growler airplane just to get off just to get up from the airport.
Of course in reality situation is not quite as bleak: after all earth is round so there is considerable room under the cover of defense radar at the extreme ranges is of thesaid missile systems. This also stresses the need for good maneuverability in the airplane.
Also the Finns should get over the rather childish ideas of supporting “colonial type army” with air force in foreign countries and keep in mind that Finnish air force is needed to to defend Finland. Mostly in Interdiction and Air Dominance roles. There is some need to air to ground work to support Navy and to destroy small high value targets with precision missiles, and so maybe a little ability to do deep penetration white is needed but most important is the air to air capability.
The F-16 E is the newest version of Lockheed fighter. It was developed for middle east with middle eastern money, and it is better plane that the current F-16 US air force flies. The F-16 E does not have dedicated SEAD platform, but it is clear to fire some anti radiation missiles. So it might not be a too much of an disadvantage. F-16 Radar is as good as any, but it does not have integral RIST sensor. This capability is delivered from pod. Same as other US legacy fighters. Of course F-16 is battle proven and as maneuverable as any of the contenders. Some west European weapon systems are not integrated to plane, but this may not be a problem.
Another contender in HX-program is Dassault Rafale. This is well thought of and well liked “omnirole” fighter for French air force and french navy air arm. The airplane is modern and some foreign tenders and the French would be eager to sell the aeroplane to Finland as well.
Rafale has very good all around the capability and it has been wieved as a very well designed airplane. Against air and ground threats it has SPECTRA self defense system. The French even lauded the airplane for the ability to fly missions into Libya with out support od SEAD platforms.the french just relied on SPECTRA. I feel that this is not very high praise because flying against broken country’s, IE country in the middle of the Civil War with dismantled air defense system shouldn’t tax too much any modern airplanes self-defense capabilities.
Dassault Rafale naturally has an IRST system that can detect enemies and an AESA radar. All the weapons are integrated in system and the only problem might be the price. As more plat forms are needed it is better to have a 10 airplanes with less of capabilities that one really good. The French may not be as heavy handed in their foreign policy as for example The US of A might be but, they are still more heavy-handed than the Swedes even though I do not see great problems in Finnish French Foreign Relations they might come from the European integration policies. Right now for example for the French absurd demands of the disarming the European Union’s law-abiding population. This ran into bad problems in eastern parts of European Union and of course in Finland .
The Eurofighter Typhoon is maybe more of a big brother for the rafale and for the all other airplanes in this “HX programs the good the bad and the ugly”. The Typhoon has all the tools needed it has very good radar and very good IRST system PIRATE so that it can and will perform beautifully in air defense roles.
But of course there is no dedicated wild weasel variant of Euro fighter Typhoon to be had but the HARM is cleared for launch from the Typhoon. So it is viable to use to Eurofighter has some kind of a enemy air defense suppression systems and I’m pretty confident that one could I ask for some advice from the Brits how they’re planning to do wild weasel missions with their current Air Force. The problem with the Eurofighter Typhoon is again the price it is by far the most expensive airplane of the seven considered.
It may be the best Air defense fighter of the lot, but it leaves very much in doubt can Finland afford enough planes to cover all of Finland and have a feasible chance in next air war against who ever Eastern Power might come trying.
And the last SAAB JAS-39 E/F that’s the last and maybe the best contender of the lot. This is mostly because the Swedes have much of the same tactical, operational and strategic requirements as Finland. Sweden even announced that they will be producing the SEAD variant of the Gripen. This would of course be a good fit for Ilmavoimat and an addition to Finnish Air Force’s capabilities. Gripen is also the only modern light fighter so Finland could quite easily acquire more than 100 examples, even though the wild weasel variant might be more expensive then the basic E/F variant of the fighter.
All the major weapon systems and missiles have been integrated already into JAS-39 so you would not be dependent of just one provider for your air to air defense weaponry which is of course important thing to think in this day and age. Also in the light of deepening cooperation with Finns and Swedish defense forces it might be feasible to rely somewhat on Swedish assets in maintenance over the Gripen fleet of Finland as well. and even though JAS-39 much lighter and smaller and much cheaper airplane, the capabilities are top notch. The French view it as a prime contender against their own try to sell Rafale planes to Finland.
None of the planes discussed here are a bad fit for Ilmavoimat and would not bebe disastrous for the Air Force and the differences between the planes are minimal. But of course there are many different things to think about when you are picking and choosing your Next Fighter airplane.
I would like to have a system where there is one your dominance fighter like F-15 Silent Eagle and then with light fighter the compliment it in dog fights and the close air support. But this doesn’t seem to be happening so the Gripen would be the only airplane to offer the numbers required to be able to fight even a large Air Force to a standstill in the skies of Finland doesn’t really need to rely on group close air support for the Army has the Artillery arm for that. But it would still be needed to destroy important bridges headquarters and enemy air fields so that the army would be able to have a fighting chance against invaders. This holds true even more for the Navy which is now in front of almost impossible task to defend with 4 Corvettes Finnish Southern coasts and Åland Islands and also to be able to support convoy action to mainland Europe along Baltic sea and the Gulf of Finland the four hulls proposed are simply not enough for these two contending tasks.