Protecting Finland’s Fighters

Finnish Airforce F-18
A FAF F/A-18C Hornet thunders aloft. EW suppliers could win between $120 million and $330 million of business furnishing the ISPSs which will equip this aircraft’s replacement.

The Ilmavoimat (FAF/Finnish Air Force) is to acquire new combat aircraft via its HX fighter programme, creating opportunities with hundreds of millions of dollars for electronic warfare vendors.

The FAF is in the market for new aircraft to replace its 62 McDonnell Douglas/Boeing F/A-18C/D Hornet fighters which official documentation regarding the HX programme state are to be phased out from 2030.

HX fighter programme

The Finnish government published an initial request for information regarding the new aircraft in 2016. This was followed by a request for tenders published in April 2018 which was responded to by:

  • Boeing: offering the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.
  • Dassault: offering the Rafale-A/B.
  • Eurofighter: offering the Typhoon.
  • Lockheed Martin: proposing the F-35A/B/C Lightning-II.
  • Saab: touting the JAS-39E Gripen.

A more specific request for quotations was sent to the bidders during the last half of 2019, and negotiations commenced therein. Further negotiations are expected to conclude by late 2020 with Helsinki taking the decision on its preferred bidder by 2021.

Integrated Self-Protection Systems (ISPSs)

All five jets include state-of-the-art Integrated Self-Protection Systems (ISPSs):

  • The F/A-18E/F carries L3Harris’ AN/ALQ-214 Integrated Defensive Electronic Countermeasures system.
  • The Rafale is equipped with Thales’ Spectra EW suite.
  • The Typhoon has the EuroDASS Praetorian ISPS.
  • The F-35 series is equipped with BAE System’s AN/ASQ-239 ensemble.
  • The JAS-39E has Saab’s MFS-EW.

The procurement of the new fighter by the FAF could present opportunities to these EW companies, and their suppliers, depending on which aircraft is eventually chosen. As a rule of thumb, a combat aircraft’s electronic warfare and self-protection systems can be worth over five percent of the aircraft’s unit price.

Unit Costs

Praetorian is thought to have a unit price of circa $5.5 million versus the $4.6 million for Spectra, with the AN/ASQ-214 thought to cost $2 million. Unit costs of the MFS-EW and AN/ASQ-239 do not appear to have been released, although conservatively, one could assume an estimated unit cost of circa $3.3 million for each system.


Assuming a procurement of 60 fighters to replace the FAF’s existing F/A-18C/D fleet, the Finnish government’s purchase could be worth between $120 million to $330 million to EW suppliers depending on which aircraft Helsinki selects:

  • For example a decision to purchase the F/A-18E/F could be worth around $120 million to suppliers involved with the AN/ALQ-214.
  • Conversely, at the upper end of the scale, suppliers involved with Praetorian could enjoy up to $330 million of business if that aircraft is acquired.

All will no doubt become clear over the coming 24 months.

by Dr. Thomas Withington