The recent DSCA notifications for the Finnish HX programme included one particular oddity, in that they did not sport any longer-ranged air-to-air weapons than the AIM-9X. For an Air Force that swears by the supreme importance of the air-to-air mission above anything else, it was a surprising detail, and one which I in my post on the release commented as follows:
In any case, there will be medium-ranged air-to-air missiles operational on any aircraft that ends up winning HX, and the options on the table for the American ones include either a separate notification and order before IOC (order in 2025 and delivery 2026/2027 would probably be the approximate timeline) or the continued use of the current AMRAAM stocks.
And I wasn’t the only one thinking about the lack of serious air-to-air firepower. Turns out the issue caused enough of ripples to warrant a blog post by programme director Lauri Puranen.
In his post, Puranen starts with rehashing the same things that he has commented on a few times earlier as well, namely that the offers are far from ready, that they can’t comment on details of any particular offer, and that speculation on what is included in the DSCA notifications and what isn’t isn’t helpful for the competition. However, there are a few issues that warrants clear comments to avoid confusion.
The first point is, as he said in his earlier post which was published when the notifications came out, that they are confident that they will be able to build five offers that fills all the requirements within the current budget, and that these packages obviously will include air-to-air missiles. He also points out that there is a twelve year window during which acquisitions can be made as part of the HX-specific funding, and that all offers will include parts of the package, e.g. sensors and weapons, that will come online later than 2025. Nothing strange there, but might be good repeating it once more for those in the back.
He also reiterates that the Finnish Air Force Command still stands by the memo published last summer that lifespan of the current air-to-air missiles largely is planned to correspond to the lifespan of the current Hornet-fleet, and that the current air-to-air missiles will have to be replaced as part of the HX-programme. These acquisitions are paid for by the same funding that pays for everything else in the HX-programme. This makes sense (and for anyone questioning how this lines up with the JASSM-quotes he has made earlier, it should be noted that he strictly talks about air-to-air missiles in the post).
So far so good, until he finishes of with the following statement:
The air-to-air missiles of the Finnish Defence Forces remain an asset for the Finnish Air Force and air defences throughout their lifespan, but the removal of the older missile stocks will require new acquisitions for the HX-programme.
Make of that what you will.
Edit: Commander of the Finnish Air Force, major general Jokinen, gave further details in a tweet. There is a “small number” of AMRAAMs that have shelf-life left into the 2030’s, which in theory could be used “by US HX-contenders” (something of a simplification, as in fact all contenders except Rafale have the AMRAAM integrated). However, as “another system” (read: NASAMS) also uses these, it has been decided that these will be earmarked for ground-based use. This will even the playing field for HX somewhat, but also generally makes sense to me as it then means savings for the Army and it is likely possible to maximise getting lifespan out of these as they aren’t exposed to the G-forces and elements involved in aircraft carriage.