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Finland decommissions trainer jets

by Staff Writers
Helsinki, Finland (UPI) Nov 12, 2010
Finland's air force is set to decommission 41 BAE Hawk attack and trainer jets over the next four years.

Military officials say the air force is set to mothball the majority of its 67 two-seat Hawks and replace them with 27 Vinka planes.

Ten of the Hawks have been grounded because of metal fatigue detected in the bodies and wings of the British-built aircraft.

"Worn out is worn out," air force commander Maj. Gen. Jarmo Lindberg was quoted saying in local reports from Helsinki.

The decommissioning of the jets, military experts say, may pave the way for procurement cooperation with Sweden, which needs to replace its Saab-built jet trainers by 2014.

The Finnish air force, Defense News reported, "is examining the viability of finding overseas buyers for the Hawks but this could be difficult in the current harsh economic climate."

While Poland has expressed interest in picking up some of Hawk trainers, drastic spending cuts announced in the country this year have dampened such prospects before the close of 2011.

Finland's air force is expected to hold on to 26 of the trainer aircraft but will upgrade them with digital machinery and navigation systems.

In 2001, a government report on security and defense said that the country's defense force could afford giving up the operational use of the Hawks. In recent years, the jets were consigned for use as training planes only, thus requiring a smaller fleet.

The batch that will be kept includes jets that were bought for $56 million from Switzerland two years ago. They were slightly used. But by servicing them, Defense News reported, their operational life will increase by 20 years.

The original order of Hawk 51s were produced under license from BAE by Valtion Lentokonetehdas, a state-run defense company that merged with Valmet. In 1996, Valmet's aircraft design and assembly division was fused into a new defense company called Patria.

That company now is pushing for the Polish resale.

"Let's see if there is a possibility to make use of the equipment that is being phased out. If there is not, then there isn't. We and the air force have a very pragmatic attitude about this", said Patria Director Jukka Holkeri.

As of 2005, the Finnish air force has outsourced its pilot flight training to Patria. It will also move to replace Vinka propeller planes within the next five to seven years. Military officials are said to be considering a joint procurement with Sweden, which will soon have to decommission Saab-made trainer jets.

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