[Editor’s Note: Both the Swedes and the Finns have been playing cat-and-mouse with their Russian neighbors in the sky over the Baltic Sea, as well as in the airspace in the arctic, for decades. There has always been some level of cooperation, but with emergent threats such as Daesh, a stronger alliance between the two nations comes as no big surprise.]

“The traditional threat of Russia in the High North and the Baltic Sea remains, but it is the new and emerging threats, from ISIL and cyber warfare, that are also driving cooperation forward,” Kehl said.

The deepening in bilateral defense collaboration between non-aligned Nordic states Sweden and Finland is expected to include the establishment of joint units and the sharing of naval and Air Force infrastructure.

Moreover, Sweden remains interested in selling the JAS-39 Gripen-E to Finland, which has begun the process of replacing the Air Force’s F/A-18 C/D Hornet aircraft, which are scheduled to be retired between 2025 and 2030.

Although government officials remain tight lipped, the increasingly closer military cooperation between Finland and Sweden advances the possibility that Finland may opt to pursue a replacement strategy that includes two different NATO-compatible fighter types, one of which could be the Gripen-E.

Saab JAS-39 "Gripen" strike fighters are rumored to be under consideration to replace the Finnish Air Force's aging fleet of Boeing F/A-18C/Ds. (Photo courtesy of Saab)
Saab JAS-39 “Gripen” strike fighters are rumored to be under consideration to replace the Finnish Air Force’s aging fleet of Boeing F/A-18C/Ds. (Photo courtesy of Saab)

Ongoing defense negotiations between Finland and Sweden are focused on removing outstanding legal impediments that prohibit deeper military collaboration.

It is expected that future bilateral agreements will not only cover joint tasks and the sharing of naval ports and air bases, but will also allow each country to aid the other in the event of an armed attack.

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In a joint statement released Jan. 10, Finnish and Swedish Prime Ministers Juha Sipilä and Stefan Löfven underscored the need to build a bilateral military collaboration structure that is practical and usable, warning that European security faces its gravest threat since the Cold War era.

“Finland and Sweden both operate outside of military alliances. We believe that this policy serves us well. We must rely on this experience in our assessment of the challenges currently facing us. Our military non-alignment contributes to the stability and security of Northern Europe as a whole. Even though we are not members in NATO, we cooperate with the organization. We have also a strong trans-Atlantic link,” the statement read.

The Finnish Ministry of Defense launched its HX Fighter Program at the end of 2015 on the back of an Expert Working Group report in June 2015 that recommended acquisition of a multirole fighter over carrying out an additional upgrade to the Air Force’s 61 F/A-18C/D aircraft.

The Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, Lockheed Martin F-35 and the Saab Gripen-E comprise the five fighter type candidates being considered by the HX Fighter Program.

The request for information (RFI) concerning the HX Fighter Program is due to be sent to aircraft manufacturers in March and replies are required by Oct. 31.

The HX Fighter Program is being run by the Air Force Command, which will be responsible for project execution and implementation. It is expected that a call for tender will be sent out by the Air Force Command in spring 2018. Under this time frame, the fighter selection decision would take place in 2021.

The original article on Defense News can be viewed here.

(Featured Photo courtesy of Saab)