This post has been long overdue! Reasons for this has been my studies for engineering degree, and family life. But without further ado, let us get into business!
All the HX candidates were present, but unfortunately Eurofighter Typhoon only with small stand and a model of Typhoon There were two fluing planes, but no to really talk to. SAAB was all out again and had MARVELOUS! area. One could sit in JAS-39 E GRIPEN cockpit and there was also flying example on the site.
SAAB was also responssible of maybe the biggest news splash of the Kauhava 2020 airfair: They announced their decoy/jammer UAV (sort of a missile, sort of a drone, but EW/Jammer as a payload) After this addition to cababilities, Gripen E should be at par or better with all the other HX-contenders. Do not get me wrong: JAS-39 Gripen E is a great fighter! But it was lacking in capability to jam enemy radars without being itself in the harms way. AREXIS EW/jammer pods are a great system, but they were carried by the plane, so at very least home-on-jamming missiles would be a serious threat to jamming Gripens.
Also a big first was SAABs Global Eye in Kauhava! Two of these (mini)AWACS planes are in the bid for HX-program. System like this extends the detection range of radar network out to 450km and also close to ground. The Global Eye is maybe the special strength of SAABs bid: It offers capabilities nobody else comes close to offering. On a side note, Finnish procurement plan for HX-program is about 20% too low: No HX contender has been able to provide the asked “full capabilities overhaul” within the 10G€ cap. So I think there will be haggling about this and that on 2021. These kinds of capabilities don’t come cheap. but you cant get them when you need them otherwise. Also I will be doing a longer post on Global eye in the spring.
Dassault was also present in force! They had brought Armee del Air acrobatics flyer with them! The French bid is, for some unfathomable reason, seen as a bit lackluster by the general audience, but Rafale does everything the the peers do, and while carrying a lot of ordnance! Rafale is optimized striker, but it that does not deduct of her air to air capabilities. Rafale is agile fighter that would be a good fit for Finnish Airforce as well. On the plus side you get all the common NATO armaments and a few extras that the French make better! For example HAMMER guidance kits for bombs and MICA missiles. MICAs can do some really clever tricks with electronics of the Rafale to enhance the fighters capabilities.
Dassault tells that MICa missiles can be fired over the shoulder of the plane, and be guided by somebody other than the original firer to target. So this might play out like something like this: target pops up behind and to the side of the Rafale. Second Rafale might be behind but out of range to shoot, so the first Rafale can fire a MICA over to the side and behind and the second Rafale can guide it to target, so that 1st Rafale can start evading.
So that said, Rafale is an exellent fighter in her own right, but how I see things, it does everything well, but there is no catch. I do not know what there might be for Dassault and French government to sweeten the deal and to bring that little something extra. It might be something EU-policies related, it might be something to do with defense and security aspect of EU. But as I said, if it is in hardware or capabilities, I do not have knowledge of this.
The flight performance of the Rafale dispaly was suberb. You can view it on a link HERE
Boeing and F/A-18 E/F/G was also present in strenght and I had good fortune to speak about Loyal Wingman (Air power teaming system ) as well in Boeing booth. At this stage Loyal wingman is not, yet, part of HX-bid but very likely be part of future MLU update. Loyal wingman is basically a unmanned fightersize and capable drone. It’s main duty is to fly forward of the controlling fighter and use it’s sensor suite to pick targets for the fighter.
What is also significan, IMHO is that as Alan Garcia confirmed, that Super hornet Block III CAN fit quad missile pylons. They are not in offer to finland, but never the less be great asset: AMRAAM is not heavy, but they are bulky, pylons can carry upwards of 1500kg of ordnance, but it has to be rather narrow. This would, even if you can only carry the quad pylon on inner wing stations, missile count of Rhino from 12 to 16. Well, more likely 12 still, but with some other doo hikeys.
The extra interest in Boeing offer is the E/A-18 G Growler. It is worlds most advanced electronic attack platform. Growler would really be game changer in our neck of woods if push comes into a shove. All HX candidates can do self protection, some of them can even do escort jamming. But Boeing’s bid has the only dedicated EA platform to do it.
The F-35 Lightning II is the perceived forerunner of the race for the laymen: It is low observable platform, that will have a lot of users around the world and Europe. It is the marvel of best American engineering money can buy. It can do a lot by virtue of its shape and sensor package, but there are some limitations.On the other hand, the low observable engineered shape goes to naught if you start hanging all kinds of ordnance into the wings.
Lockheed Martin and F-35 has taken a lot of FLAK internationally and nationally with it’s bid. There has been nasty lobbying incident, the fighter has been too expensive and too slow, it can’t carry enough ordnance and there has been all kinds of delays in the procurement. Some, if not most, is about making headlines, and rest is maybe not as dramatic. Developing a new fighter and making it top notch is time consuming and expensive.
The price of F-35 A has come down considerably, and is about the same as with the other HX fighters. There are clouds in horizon for F-35 though. IR Array and multistatic radar technology goes forwards by leaps and bounds, so low observable might not be the winning bet for all times to come. Now I’m not saying F-35 is one trick pony, but it may well see her margins of excellence diminishing.
Eurofigter Typhoon didn’t have sales people on the site because of COVID-19, but I’m quite sure they are still wanting to participate and push Typhoon forward. The catch with Typhoon is for the Finns the access to Britain’s national intelligence satellite network, which would bring ISTAR capabilities for FDF.