The Finnish Air Force (FAF) has signed a contract with Lockheed Martin for the supply of Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles (AGM-158 JASSM) to provide its fleet of F-18C/D Hornet aircraft with air-to-ground capability.

The €178.5m deal, approved by the defence ministry, consists of AGM-158 missiles along with necessary software, technical documentation and training for the F-18 Hornet fleet.

Modifications to the fighter, which are included in the procurement, will be completed by 2016 as part of the Mid-Life Upgrade (MLU) cycle programme.

Finland Defence Command operative chief lieutenant general Mika Peltonen told Bloomberg that the upgrades were intended to extend the lifespan of the fleet.

The US Congress and Department of Defense (DoD) approved the deal in November 2011, paving the way for the acquisition of the missiles by the Finnish Defence Forces.

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Payments under the contract will be made in six years and the first lot of AGM-158 JASSM missiles is scheduled to arrive in Finland either in late 2015 or early 2016.

The AGM-158 JASSM is a 2,000lb, low observable standoff cruise missile that can independently identify targets using its inertial navigation and satellite positioning systems.

The Boeing F/A-18 Hornet is a twin-engine supersonic, all-weather carrier-capable multirole fighter jet, designed to dogfight and attack ground targets, as well as conduct fighter escort, fleet air defence, air interdiction, close air support and aerial reconnaissance missions.

Finland is also equipping the F-18s with new avionics, including helmet mounted sights (HMS), new cockpit displays, sensors and standard Nato data link, as well as new AIM-9X Sidewinder and AIM-120C-7 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles to attain the original F/A-18 multi-role configuration.

The air force currently operates a fleet of 63 F/A-18 Hornets, which includes a total of 57 C models and six D models for performing air defence missions.

Image: Finnish Air Force’s F-18C Hornet demonstrating at the RIAT air show in 2005. Photo: Andrew P Clarke.