Finnish Air Force ferries two Hornets to United States for air-to-surface weapon integration
The Finnish Air Force's project to provide its Hornet multi-role fighters with an air-to-surface capability has reached a weapons integration phase. Around mid-April, the Finnish Air Force ferries two Hornets to the United States where the capability and technical compatibility of the installed joint air-to-surface standoff missile (JASSM) are verified by flight and ground tests.
According to the Army’s Striking Capability Report completed in March 2004, the Government has empowered the Finnish Air Force to provide an air-to-surface capability with the Boeing F/A-18C Hornet multi-role fighter to support the joint combat of all services.
As an outcome of the report the Finnish Defence Forces decided to purchase air-to-surface weapons for the Hornet. These include short-range precision-guided bombs (JDAM, joint direct attack munition), medium-range glide bombs (JSOW, joint standoff weapon), and long-range air-to-surface standoff missiles (JASSM, joint air-to-surface standoff missile).
Installations and modifications along with software updates for the new weapons were initiated at Patria Aviation facility in Halli, Jämsä, in 2012 as part of the Hornet's mid-life upgrade 2 (MLU 2). Serial assembly of MLU 2 on all 62 Hornets has progressed according to schedule with the last aircraft off the production line set to be completed at the end of 2016.
In connection with serial assembly the safety and technical compatibility of the JDAM and JSOW were verified by the Finnish Air Force through integration work including flight and ground tests in Finland, that were finished in summer 2015.
For practical reasons, the integration of the JASSM can be implemented only in the weapon's country of origin - the United States.
For integration work the Finnish Air Force will send two Hornets to the United States in spring 2016. This flight test detachment consisting of over ten airmen will be deployed to the Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) China Lake, California, that is responsible for the research and development of the United States Navy's aircraft weapons.
At China Lake the detachment will perform flight and ground tests to verify the JASSM's capability as a payload for the Finnish Hornet and its compatibility with the software and related systems.
The Hornets assigned to flight tests will be ferried from Finland to the United States in mid-April. The detachment will be redeployed to Finland in September 2017. The Finnish Air Force's Hornet fleet has attained an initial operational air-to-surface capability at the beginning of 2016 and will attain a full operational capability at the beginning of 2018.