Finland has locked a deal to purchase 64 fighter jets from US arms builder Lockheed Martin to replace its aging fleet of combat warplanes in a 10 billion-euro ($11.3 billion) transaction that represents its largest ever military acquisition.
The government of the Nordic country announced on Friday that it has picked the US company's F-35A fighters from among five contenders that included the Boeing F-18 Super Hornet, France's Dassault Rafale, Britain's Eurofighter Typhoon and Sweden's Saab Gripen.
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin further declared that her government’s decision -- based on a recommendation by the Finnish military -- to purchase F-35A was unanimous.
“New fighters are a key part of Finland’s defense,” Marin added in a press briefing. “Fighters protect the integrity of Finnish airspace, protect society from airstrikes and support (Finnish) army and navy operations.”
The country’s Defense Ministry also stated on Friday that the price tag for the deal with Lockheed Martin includes training and other equipment.
The Finnish air force currently maintains a fleet of more than 60 F-18 Hornets -- acquired in the early 1990s. It began shopping for a successor aircraft in 2014.
Finland, which shares a 1,340-kilometer border with Russia, has increased its bilateral defense and military cooperation with Sweden, Norway and the US in the past few years.
The major US weapons maker also declared in a statement that it was “honored" the Finnish government picked the F-35 “through its thorough, open competition.”
It added that the arms deal would include “a robust weapons package, a sustainment solution tailored to Finland’s unique security of supply requirements, as well as a comprehensive training program.”
Finland is a member of the European Union bloc and although it claims to be a militarily non-aligned nation, the country closely cooperates with the US-led NATO military alliance in a way similar to neighboring Sweden.
Switzerland, another militarily non-aligned European country, along with NATO members Denmark and Norway have previously decided to purchase the F-35 combat warplanes.