One Finnish pilot describes the Super Hornet like this: it's like the Volvo V90 - the extended and updated V-seventies. Gray but stable and reliable. Take it safely and bring it back. It also moves when you press the gas to the bottom.

American pilots have heard some similarities in the Super Hornet: "Jack-of-all-trades, master of none." An all-rounder, a good all-rounder that does not have a single feature that rises to the kingdom class. And again: if the oldest F / A-18 A / B Hornet was Nintendo, the Super Hornet is the X-Box.

Commodore Brian Becker has been with the US Navy for 20 years - flying all versions of the Hornet.

Photo: Joonas Salo

Commodore Brian Becker, nicknamed Wood, commands the aircraft carrier's flight deck. Of course, he disagrees with the ubiquitous planer characterization.

"I think it's a master in many things," Becker told IS on Wednesday.

This "Volvo" is now being offered by Boeing as Finland's new multi-tasker, succeeding the aging F / A-18 C / D Hornets. In addition to the Super Hornets, the deal includes several EA-18G Growler aircraft specializing in electronic warfare. By the way, they are similar to the Twin Horse Super Hornets, but carry a powerful elso accessory kit.

How many Growlers are included in Boeing's offer is yet to be announced. The aircraft's 44 aircraft have 6 to 8 Growlers in the combat section and the rest are Super Hornets. The ratio for the Finnish Air Force could be the same if the aircraft were purchased from Boeing.

The acquisition of Block III, the latest serial production version of Super Hornet, would provide Finland with continuity, but also many new abilities. Larger than the Hornet, the machine is remodeled and digitized with sensors and electronics, carries more payload and has a longer operating range. Boeing promises that up to 60 percent of the infrastructure needed by the current Hornets could be utilized in the operations of Super Hornet and Growler. It would take only about a month to train pilots on a new plane and 120 hours for maintenance personnel. These are good benefits.

The single-seat Super Hornet E-model is equipped with AIM-120 Amraam missiles under the wings in Pirkkala.

Photo: Joonas Salo

Growler specializes in finding, tracking, interfering with, and deceiving your opponent's radar, radio, data links, and other electronic systems. The offer reflects confidence in Finland as a partner: so far, these machines have only been delivered to the US armed forces and Australia.

Growler is described as effective. When its harassment is on, the opponent will see a gray cloud or a cluster of virtual fake paint on his radar. Growler can silence air defense systems and disrupt other hostilities by interrupting an opponent's communications if it is on the radio. That is why, for example, critical communications between command centers are currently being built using fixed fiber optic cables. But as the troops move, they move into radio traffic - and then they are vulnerable to electronic warfare.

Too bad Finns can't test Growler's new generation elso tanks. They have not yet been delivered, even to the US Navy. Growler, who has flown to Pirkkala, carries only model pieces of the device. On the other hand, the broadband wing tips of the machine are in working order.


Growler can silence air defense systems and disrupt other hostilities by interrupting an opponent's communications if it is on the radio.

The Swedish competitor Saab also emphasizes the elso capabilities of the new Gripen E in its marketing: it incorporates advanced electronic warfare equipment. The Swedish Elso tank, four meters long, is more modern than Growler's current system. Growler's old elso tanks will be replaced with new generation equipment this decade.

Of the Finnish Hornets' successor candidates, the F-35 is the only one designed by default to be a low-profile so-called fader. However, as radar technology is constantly evolving, it is quite possible that covert technology will lose its importance in the future air war. Then the capabilities of electronic warfare will gain in value - and with this, the new generation of elso-powered Growler is a heavyweight contender.

Lockheed Martin HX bidder: F-35A fighter at Satakunta Airport on February 10.

Photo: Kalle Parkkinen

The F-35 also features intelligent elso capabilities with the technology it needs built into the body of the machine. Eurofighter Typhoon is also gaining new Elso abilities in the mid-decade. Dassault Rafale is an intelligent Elso Broadcast: its system is said to be able, for example, to reduce the machine's visibility on the radar by actively producing "cancellation" signals from the opponent's radar radiation. All HX bidders are also able to actively interrupt an opponent's radar to prevent the machine from being locked into missile targets. However, Growler, the specialist machine in the industry, is said to have a heavier weight class than its competitors.

Super Hornet and Growler are upgraded flatbeds, but basically old iron. Still, in Finland's HX project, the whole is decisive. Performance, suitability for Finnish conditions and Air Force warfare, purchase price, life-cycle costs, security of supply under all conditions, and the political impact of trade - these are the variables that solve the equation.