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    Finland Bolsters Defense with Extended Range Missiles for F-35 Fleet

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    The Chicago Air and Water Show
    The Chicago Air and Water Show

    Finland is poised to significantly enhance its air-to-ground military capabilities with the acquisition of new, extended-range missiles for its forthcoming F-35 fighter jets.

    In a decisive move, the Finnish Defense Minister Antti Häkkänen confirmed on May 31, 2024, that Finland will procure additional Lockheed Martin AGM-158B JASSM-ER (Joint Air-to-Surface Stand-off Missile – Extended Range).

    A U.S. Navy F/A-18C Hornet aircraft assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 83 launches off the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) May 22, 2013, in the Arabian Sea. The ship was deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility to promote maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support missions as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Lauren Booher/Released)

    The AGM-158B JASSM-ER is an advanced variant of the missile systems already employed by the Finnish Air Force’s FA-18C/D Hornets.

    The JASSM-ER stands out for its remarkable capacity to cover nearly 1,000 kilometers, a substantial increase from the original JASSM’s 370 kilometers range.

    The upgrade is facilitated through an innovative dual-mode turbofan engine and additional fuel reserves.

    US Air Force F-35A Lightning II pictured at the 2018 Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire.
    US Air Force F-35A Lightning II pictured at the 2018 Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire.

    This missile variant is earmarked for use with Finland’s incoming fleet of Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II jets, selected by the Finnish government on December 10, 2021.

    US Air Force F-35A Lightning II pictured at the 2018 Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire.
    US Air Force F-35A Lightning II pictured at the 2018 Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire.

    The decision to acquire the JASSM-ER comes four years after the U.S. government sanctioned its sale to Finland as part of a comprehensive package to bolster the F-35A’s candidacy in the Finnish Air Force’s HX program.

    The primary objective of this initiative is to replace the aging Hornets within the Finnish Air Force.

    VOLKEL, THE NETHERLAND - June 14th, 2019: A Lockheed F-35A Lightning II fifth generation fighter jet of the Royal Netherlands Air Force at the Luchtmachtdagen 2019 at the Volkel Air Base.
    VOLKEL, THE NETHERLAND – June 14th, 2019: A Lockheed F-35A Lightning II fifth generation fighter jet of the Royal Netherlands Air Force at the Luchtmachtdagen 2019 at the Volkel Air Base.

    Defense News reported that the Finnish Air Force is on schedule to receive 64 F-35A jets, with the first batch expected to arrive and be operational from the Arctic air bases in Finnish Lapland by 2026.

    F-22 & F-35 in the USAF Heritage Flight
    F-22 & F-35 in the USAF Heritage Flight

    Following the announcement, the Finnish Defense Forces Logistics Command stated that the procurement, to be carried out by them, will enhance the F-35 system’s versatility by incorporating precision-guided munitions with extended range capabilities compared to previous munitions.

    US Air Force F-35A Lightning II pictured at the 2018 Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire.
    US Air Force F-35A Lightning II pictured at the 2018 Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire.

    The introduction of the JASSM-ER, aimed at bolstering air-to-ground capabilities, will align with the scheduled F-35 integration plan within the Finnish Air Force.

    US Air Force F-35A Lightning II pictured at the 2018 Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire.
    US Air Force F-35A Lightning II pictured at the 2018 Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire.

    Retired Colonel Henrik Elo from the Finnish Defense Forces Logistics Command underscored the significance of this enhancement: “The range, precision, and survivability of the weapon’s effect will significantly contribute to our own countermeasures to stop a potential aggressor. In addition to the other features of the F-35, the current acquisition will greatly enhance our defense capability.”

    F-35A Lightning II flypast and display for 2023 Territory Day at Mindil Beach, Darwin.
    F-35A Lightning II flypast and display for 2023 Territory Day at Mindil Beach, Darwin.

    Furthermore, the comprehensive acquisition package includes missiles, training manuals, documentation, spare parts, transport services, and equipment.

    Trio of F-35 Lightning's exit a hangar
    Trio of F-35 Lightning’s exit a hangar

    It also encompasses training for manufacturers and suppliers, U.S. administrative services, and a suite of repair and support services from 2024 to 2031.

    Apart from the United States, AGM-158A missiles are deployed by key American allies such as Australia, Poland, South Korea, and Japan.

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