Finland's decision, to be announced on Friday, to procure American fighters for its air force is telling and reflects Estonia's northern neighbor's desire to maintain close ties with the U.S. even without being a NATO member, Minister of Defense Kalle Laanet (Reform) and former Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) Commander Riho Terras (Isamaa) find.
Finnish daily Iltalehti reported that the country's armed forces have proposed procuring American F-35 fighter jets for the Finnish Air Force. The Swedish public broadcaster SVT has also reported the news.
Finland also plans to procure 200 AGM-158 JASSM missiles from USA.
The Finnish government is set to give a press conference and comment, among other things, on the aircraft tender on Friday afternoon.
The Finnish Air Force currently operates 62 F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets that it will be decommissioning starting in 2025.
The candidates for Finland's next multirole fighter included the Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault Rafale, Saab Gripen E/F and the Lockheed Martin F-35 A and Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet.
The aircraft procurement is the most expensive in Finnish history as a single F-35 fighter jet costs at least €120 million.
Fifteen countries have currently ordered F-35 aircraft. The U.S. Air Force adopted the plane in 2015 and it is estimated to remain in service until 2077.
Minister of Defense Kalle Laanet told ERR on Friday that the decision could be significant from the point of view of strengthening transatlantic ties between Finland and USA.
"It clearly shows that the bond between USA and Finland remains strong and that Finland, while not keen on joining international organizations, has clearly picked a side in the United States," MEP Riho Terras said.
"Even though the Finnish president's pendulum policy with Russia might rouse suspicion in us, this comes as a clear message that Finland is in sync with NATO. And it is a great assurance for our national security that our northern neighbor's airspace will be professionally and sturdily defended," Terras added. "Naturally, defense planning happens in the regional dimension, also looking at the capacities of our neighbors," Kalle Laanet said.
"What this means for Russia is that putting pressure on Finland is harder today than it was yesterday, that Finland has clearly picked a side and that all manner of half-baked policy is unsustainable, which Finland has understood," Terras suggested.
Editor: Marcus Turovski