Politicians in Finland are divided over the possibility of the country donating Hornet fighter jets to Ukraine as per Kyiv's request. The controversy started when Prime Minister Sanna Marin visited Ukraine in March and said that her government may be open to the donation.
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Finland purchased Hornet fighter jets from the United States in the mid-1990s. By 2030, they will be replaced with U.S.-made Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighters, the first of which will arrive in the country in 2026.
Marin's comments about the Hornets created confusion and elicited criticism in Finland as neither the president, nor the defense and foreign ministers were aware that Marin intended to open a discussion about donating Hornets.
The debate became heated this week. Finnish media reported on Thursday that Ukraine had approached the Defense Ministry and asked Finland to discuss the possibility of donating some of its Hornets.
Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen later confirmed these reports. According to him, Ukraine hoped that the United States would also participate in the discussion about the Hornets. However, Finland's defense forces did not consider this a realistic scenario.
On Thursday, Kaikkonen said that Finland would need Hornet fighters for its own defense in the next few years. He added that by the time his country receives new fighter jets at the end of this decade, the Hornets will have reached the end of their service life.
Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said that the Hornets would not have much to offer after they reach the end of their service life.
On Friday, Esa Rautalinko, CEO of Finnish company Patria and chairman of the board of the Association of Finnish Defense and Aerospace Industries, told broadcaster Yle that he believed that Finland's Hornet fighters will still be usable when they are retired from service in the country, but he didn't think that handing over the jets would necessarily be effective.
The first new F-35 fighters will arrive in Finland only in 2026, and the last ones in 2030. Until then, Finland needs the Hornets itself. Besides, handing over the jets to another country would also necessitate, among other things, the provision of training and updating the equipment, he said.
Marin did not rule out handing over some Hornets even before the new replacement fighters arrive in Finland. This question needs to be carefully reviewed, Marin told reporters on Thursday on the sidelines of the European Union summit in Brussels.
Previously, Marin had told journalists that no one had promised Hornet fighters to Ukraine. "Finland has not offered a policy about the matter, but I see that we have the ability and opportunity to have this discussion," she said.
The United States has not been willing to hand over fighter jets to Ukraine, and in Finland, only the prime minister has spoken about the possible donation of Hornets to Ukraine, the Finnish daily Ilta-Sanomat said, adding that the Chair of the Parliament's Defense Committee Antti Hakkanen asked the government for an explanation of how the Hornets issue is progressing.
"Marin is somehow on her own line," Hakkanen said, adding that the Hornet fighters are among Finland's most important weapons systems.