In 2007, Finland wanted Lockheed Martin’s stealthy AGM-158 JASSM cruise missiles, in order to arm its F/A-18C/D Hornet fighters. Despite a history of good relations, in 2007, the US State Department said no.
Fast forward to 2008. The Russian invasion of Georgia, and Germany’s response, upset more than a few calculations in the region. As NATO weakens, the Nordic nations appear to be moving toward an informal defense compact of their own. Finland, whose memories of Russian invasion are still vivid, repeated its request for stealthy cruise missiles – with 2 alternative buys waiting in the wings. In 2011, Finland finally got what it wanted: approval to buy Lockheed Martin’s JASSM. Now the missiles have to be bought, and integrated with Finland’s Hornet fleet.
The Missiles: JSOW, SLAM-ER, JASSM, and Taurus
Realistically, Finland’s only serious threat comes from Russia, which deploys advanced fighters and overlapping belts of air defense missiles. Finland’s Hornets are primarily expected to help contest control of Finland’s skies in the event of another Russian attack, with close support of troops as a secondary mission. Adding ranged cruise missiles with low radar signatures gives them a 3rd potential mission: the ability to contemplate retaliatory strikes on enemy facilities and targets near Finland, with far higher odds of success than a bomb-carrying F/A-18C would enjoy. The Russians understand this, which is why Finland’s request has been a touchy issue with the US State Department.
Finland was looking for missiles that combine low radar signatures with a GPS/ Imaging Infrared guidance, for CEP accuracy of less than 10 meters. They also preferred missiles that have already been integrated and qualified with the F/A-18A-D Hornet. Candidates within that set included Raytheon’s AGM-154 JSOW, Boeing’s AGM-84K SLAM-ER, Lockheed Martin’s AGM-158 JASSM, and the MBDA/ EADS/ Saab Taurus KEPD 350. All are sub-sonic.
AGM-158 JASSM (winner). Lockheed Martin’s missile had a rocky development history, with several forced halts and repeated threats of cancellation. Indeed, JASSM is only integrated with F/A-18s because the US Navy was once a partner – before they dropped out in FY 2005, and ordered the SLAM-ER. The 2,250 pound/ 1,020 kg, turbojet powered JASSM can carry a 1,000-pound warhead to an effective range of 200 miles/ 320 km, while transmitting back via a 1-way datalink. It’s marketed as having an extremely low radar signature, and the USAF sees it playing a critical role against targets defended by sophisticated, long-range air defense systems.
The USAF is JASSM’s main customer, and Australia has ordered it but they placed it on the “projects of concern” list. Orders may also be coming from the Dutch, from South Korea – and from Finland, who has been focused on the JASSM for a number of years. In October 2011, the US DSCA finally let Finland’s official request proceed.
AGM-154 JSOW. Raytheon’s 500 kg/ 1,100 pound weapon is an outlier in this group, because most versions aren’t powered. JSOW uses the classic GPS/IIR guidance combination, but it’s a glide bomb, using its wings and body shape for lift as it maneuvers to its target. That gives it a range of about 14-80 miles/ 22-130 km, depending on its release altitude, and on how fast it’s going at the time. Within that range, it functions just like a cruise missile, albeit with sharper maneuverability tradeoffs. The most recent iteration is the AGM-154C-1 JSOW Block III, which includes a 2-way datalink for weapon retargeting in flight, and the ability to hit enemy ships. A JSOW-ER variant even adds a small turbojet that would let it fly up to 300 miles/ 500 km at slow speeds, but it hasn’t been bought and deployed yet.
JSOWs have been a popular export request for many US allies. Finland has requested limited sets of AGM-154C JSOW weapons for testing, and may yet choose it as a shorter-range precision strike weapon, for use alongside its longer-range cruise missile.
AGM-84K SLAM-ER. Boeing’s offering is derived from its naval Harpoon missile, but adds gull wings, some body shaping, guidance changes, and other modifications. Powered by an air-breathing turbojet engine, the 1,600 pound/ 725kg SLAM-ER has an effective range of 150 nautical miles/ 280km, and carries an 800-pound warhead (360kg). A 2-way datalink allows viewing of video feeds from the missile, and redirection in flight. Customers include the US Navy, South Korea, and Turkey, but Finland hasn’t publicly expressed interest.
Taurus KEPD. This multinational effort is led by EADS LFK and Saab Bofors Dynamics AB, and also marketed through MBDA. The 3,086 pound/ 1,400 kg KEPD 350 is larger than JASSM, and its stealth features are described as being “moderate” because it doesn’t use radar-absorbing coatings. The turbofan-powered missile is designed to place a premium on low-level maneuverability, and carries extra fuel to deliver its 1,100 pound/ 500 kg MEPHISTO warhead to an effective range of 210 miles/ 350 km, but currently lacks a datalink for mid-flight reporting or targeting updates. Spain has ordered the KEPD 350 for its “EF-18s”, Germany has ordered them for its Tornados and Euroffighters, and Sweden is expected to order them for its JAS-39 Gripen fighters. With the 2011 publication of a formal US DSCA announcement for JASSM, however, the KEPD 350’s hopes as Finland’s “Plan B” have largely vanished.
Contracts & Key Events
June 14/13: Australia & Finland. A $9.9 million delivery order for JASSM Common Unique Planning Component software, on behalf of Australia and Finland.
Work will be performed at Orlando, FL, and is expected to be complete by June 2/15. All funds are committed immediately by USAF Life Cycle Management Center/EBJK at Eglin AFB, FL manages the contract on behalf of their clients (FA8682-11-D-0155, #0030).
June 10/13: Integration. Lockheed Martin announces a follow-on a $34.2 million contract to integrate JASSM with Finnish Hornets. It’s the 2nd contract in a 6-year integration, production and sustainment effort.
Airworthiness activities will occur at NAS Patuxent River, MD, followed by flight testing at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division in China Lake, CA.
May 31/13: Finland. A $34.2 million contract modification for initial development of the Precision Targeting Module software package brings total funds committed to $39.3 million to provide key items for Finland, upgrade and expand Pike County Operations at the JASSM AUR building, and provide general JASSM systems engineering services. Deliverables for Finland include 1 containerized instrumented JASSM test vehicle, 1 containerized Jettison test vehicle, 2 containerized separation test vehicles, 2 containerized mass simulation vehicles, global positioning systems controlled radiation pattern antennas, 1 weapon support simulator consisting of a system support simulator and transit case assembly, and tooling, along with various forms of support (FA8682-11-D-0155, #0022 modification 04).
Work will be performed at Orlando, FL and Troy, AL, and is expected to be complete by Jan 31/16. USAF Life Cycle Management Center/EBJK at Eglin Air Force Base, FL manages the contract.
Dec 3/12: Integration. Lockheed Martin announces a $5.1 million initial contract to support integration of the AGM-158 JASSM onto Finnish Air Force (FiAF) F-18C/D Hornets. It’s the 1st phase of a 6-year software development and aircraft integration support program, with additional contract awards expected for the remaining phases of integration support, missile procurement and post-production support. For convenience and economies of scale, the award aligns with the FY 2012 JASSM Production Lot 10 procurement contract.
Finland becomes the 2nd international customer for JASSM, whose integration will coincide with the FiAF’s F/A-18 Mid-Life Two upgrades. The U.S. Navy will lead the integration effort in coordination with the U.S. Air Force, Lockheed Martin and the FiAF. Integration activities will take place at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division in China Lake, CA.
Oct 31/11: The US DSCA finally allows Finland’s official request [PDF] for AGM-158 JASSM cruise missiles to go forward. Finland would receive 70 AGM-158 cruise missiles, 2 test vehicles, plus support and test equipment, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, and U.S. Government and contractor support. The estimated cost is up to $255 million.
The State Department’s DSCA goes on to sing Finland’s praises as a force for stability in Europe, which makes their previous refusals and delays hard to fathom. The DSCA adds the required line that “The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region,” which is true, but their presence will give Finland a significant deterrence capability that they did not have before.
The prime contractor will be Lockheed Martin Industries in Tampa, FL, but neither Lockheed Martin nor the US government will need to assign anyone to Finland after the sale. Despite Finland’s general insistence on industrial offsets for foreign equipment buys, there are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.
April 1/09: Finnish media report that the government’s financial affairs committee has given the go-ahead for EUR 200 million in upgrades and new equipment for the nation’s 67 F/A-18 C/D Hornets, as part of a EUR 1 billion plan to update the entire fleet by 2016. That approval includes a 2nd request for American JASSM missiles, with Finland’s Patria Oyj acting as the integrator under associated industrial cooperation deals.
Finnish officials are reportedly optimistic that this request will be approved. If not, however, papers obtained by YLE indicated that KEPD’s Taurus 350 would be Finland’s secondary choice. KEPD is a partnership of EADS LFK, MBDA, and Saab Bofors Dynamics, and the Taurus missile has already been integrated with Spanish F/A-18 (“EF-18”) Hornets.
Sept 9/08: the US DSCA announces [PDF] Finland’s official request for the 3rd phase of its F-18 Mid-Life Upgrade Program to modernize its 63 F/A-18C and F/A-18D Hornet aircraft. The contract could be worth up to $406 million, and Boeing subsidiary McDonnell Douglas in St. Louis, MO will be the prime contractor.
Among the items requested: 1 AGM-154C Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW) Captive Air Training Missile, and 15 AGM-154C JSOW precision glide bombs. Raytheon’s JSOWs are also guided weapons with small radar profiles, and look somewhat similar to the AGM-158 JASSM, but the AGM-154C is unpowered, giving it a much shorter range. Read “Finland Requests 3rd Upgrade Phase for its F-18s” for full coverage.
* Finnish Institute for International Affairs (Sept 13/12) – Not just another arms deal: The security policy implications of the United States selling advanced missiles to Finland.
* Finnish Defence Forces (Aug 24/10) – The Successor of the Hornet Needs to Be Decided Only in the Early Twenties.