According to US-based sources, Finland is set to sign a formal purchase agreement for F-35 fighter jets which could be announced by this weekend, bringing the fifth-generation stealth fighters closer to being deployed on Russia’s northern flank.
In December 2021, Finland had said it would replace its ageing F/A-18 combat jets with 64 F-35s planes and weapons systems in a deal worth $9.4 billion dollar deal.
“This is another clear sign of how serious Finland has always been about its national defense,” said Finland’s ambassador to the United States, Mikko Hautala, in a statement while adding, “it is part of our long-term planning and has nothing to do with the current situation as such.”
The development comes at a time when Russian troops have amassed on the border with Ukraine prompting NATO to beef up military presence on its own eastern flank.
In January this year, Finland’s foreign minister said, it has no plans to join NATO. However since it aims to purchase NATO-compatible military hardware, it will benefit from greater inter-operability.
Since long Finland has kept its foot in the doors of NATO, although it has not formally joined it saying, it has the right to apply for membership if it so chooses.
The country shares a difficult history with Russia following two clashes during the Second World War.
According to three people familiar with the situation, the paperwork for the deal could be formalized as early as later today.
The U.S. State Department declined comment.
Finland aims to phase in the F-35 jets in 2027.