Air Force invites competing jets to ‘audition’ for €10 billion order

War games will see competing aircraft take to the skies in a test of the jets under Finnish winter weather conditions.

File picture of Italian Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon in action over Norway during Trident Juncture exercise / Credit: @BAES_Finland Twitter

The Finnish Air Force has invited all the fighter jets competing for a €10 billion contract to come and ‘audition’ for the role.

The planes will take to the skies from Pirkkala Air Base as part of ‘Operation HX Challege’, and each contender gets seven days for evaluation starting 9th January and ending 26th February.

America’s Lockheed Martin F-35 and Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet; France’s Dassault Rafale; Sweden’s Saab Gripen and the pan-European Typhoon Eurofighter have all officially lodged bids to provide the next generation fighter jets to replace Finland’s aging Hornet fleet.

“The aim of the testing and evaluation event is to verify that each candidate’s systems and performance values match the data reported by the manufacturers” says Air Force Colonel Juha-Pekka Keränen, who heads up the programme to find the Hornet’s replacement.

The aircraft will take part in simulated long-term war games, where the candidate jets will play their roles as part of Finland’s defence systems. In the simulated battles they’ll face the Air Force’s current F/A-18 Hornets and Hawk jet trainers.

“The purpose of the HX Challenge is not to rank the candidates, but to make sure that the performance values reported in the responses to the call for tenders actually apply in the Finnish operating environment” explains Keränen.

The Air Force says the event is taking place in Finland so that each plane can be tested under Finnish winter operating conditions – and also to provide a balanced evaluation for each of the five candidate aircraft.

Harsh weather conditions can have an impact on the performance of electro-optical sensors in particular.

Although the aircraft are designed to operate in sub-zero temperatures, the challenges come when the temperatures hover around freezing with snow, sleet or freezing drizzle throwing extra challenges at the jets.