Finland’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) has confirmed that it has received no firm date for the first deliveries of the AIM-120C-7 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) ordered by the Air Force in 2008. The MoD said that technical issues relating to the missile misfiring during cold weather tests has meant that deliveries, intended to begin in the first half of 2012, have been delayed.
The Air Force, which is discussing the hold-up with supplier Raytheon, said it is working to secure a definitive first delivery date. The emergence of a technical fault was initially communicated to the MoD in 2010, but Finland had hoped the issue could be resolved in 2011 to enable deliveries to meet the original schedule.
“The problem is connected to the rocket engines, which have been in use for several decades,” said Air Force Col. Kari Renko.
The U.S. Congress authorized the sale of 300 AMRAAMs to Finland in 2008 in a deal worth $435 million. The weapons are to be deployed on Finland’s multirole Boeing F/A-18 C/D Hornet fighters as part of a broader $3 billion capital plan to modernize the force’s anti-aircraft systems (AAS) and carry out a midlife upgrade to the Hornets.
The AAS upgrade includes the acquisition of the Norwegian Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS), a proven SL-AMRAAM variant deployed by the U.S. Army and which is being acquired from Norway’s Kongsberg.
All of the upgraded Hornets are to be fitted with the latest variant of the AIM-120C-7 missile when it becomes available. In its absence, the Air Force plans to deploy older version AMRAAMs from its stock of about 300 AIM-9X sidewinder, AIM-120C-7 and AIM-9X Captive Air Training missiles acquired in 2009.
Finland also plans to deploy the new-version AIM-120C-7s on its NASAMS anti-aircraft system. The initial test firing was scheduled to take place in 2014. This program of tests will now proceed using older version AMRAAMs. NASAMS will replace Finland’s Soviet-era built BUK anti-aircraft system, which is set to be retired in 2015-2016.
The $2.5 billion Hornet midlife upgrade, which is due to be completed on the Air Force’s fleet of 62 Hornets in 2016, aims to secure the usability of the NATO-compatible aircraft up to 2025. The upgrade has also changed the Hornets’ primary interceptor role against aerial targets to that of a more multirole attack fighter equipped with several different types bombs, glide bombs, and air-to-ground missiles.