The Finnish Air Force (FAF) is poised to significantly bolster its strike capabilities with the procurement of bunker-buster missiles, boasting a range of 1,000 kilometers. This enhancement, announced by Defense Minister Antti Häkkänen on May 31, follows the signing of a letter of intent (LOI) for the acquisition of JASSM-ER air-to-surface missiles. This strategic acquisition will ensure Helsinki maintains operational readiness with its incoming F-35 fleet, which is set to replace the aging F/A-18 Hornets.

Included in the acquisition package is comprehensive logistics and maintenance support from 2024 to 2031, facilitating ground crews in adapting to the new systems. The U.S. government has approved the potential sale of these JASSM-ER missiles, alongside the F-35A, with the total estimated cost approximating $12.5 billion. While the precise quantity of missiles ordered remains undisclosed, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) has revealed that Finland has requested 200 units of JASSM-ERs.

Bunker Buster Capabilities

The Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range (JASSM-ER), developed by Lockheed Martin, is a sophisticated, long-range, precision-guided munition engineered to strike high-value, heavily defended targets from a considerable distance, thereby minimizing risk to the deploying aircraft. Measuring approximately 14 feet (4.27 meters) in length with a wingspan of around 8.7 feet (2.64 meters), the compact design of the JASSM-ER allows it to be deployed from various platforms, including bombers and fighter jets.

Powered by a turbofan engine, the JASSM-ER boasts significantly extended range capabilities compared to its predecessor, enabling subsonic travel that optimizes fuel efficiency and range. The missile is equipped with a GPS-aided inertial navigation system (INS) for mid-course guidance and an imaging infrared (IIR) seeker for terminal guidance, ensuring high accuracy and effectiveness against both stationary and moving targets.

With an operational range exceeding 500 nautical miles (approximately 925 kilometers), the JASSM-ER stands as one of the longest-range air-launched missiles in the U.S. arsenal. This extensive range permits launch from a safe distance, far beyond the reach of enemy air defenses. The missile carries a 1,000-pound (450-kilogram) WDU-42/B penetrator warhead, designed to destroy a wide array of targets, including fortified and underground facilities, by penetrating the target before detonation to maximize destructive impact.

JASSM-ER Operational History

Since its operational debut in 2014, the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range (JASSM-ER) has been integrated across multiple platforms, including the B-1B Lancer, B-2 Spirit, B-52 Stratofortress, F-15E Strike Eagle, and F-16 Fighting Falcon. One of its early prominent deployments occurred during the U.S. military’s April 2018 strikes in Syria, targeting chemical weapons facilities in retaliation for alleged chemical attacks by the Syrian government. In this operation, B-1B Lancer bombers launched a substantial number of JASSM-ER missiles, showcasing the missile’s precision and extended range capabilities.

The JASSM-ER has also been adopted by several allied nations, including Australia and Poland, enhancing their long-range strike capabilities and expanding the missile’s operational footprint. This international integration underscores the missile’s reliability and effectiveness in contemporary combat scenarios.

Overall, the JASSM-ER’s operational history highlights its status as a versatile and potent asset in the U.S. military’s arsenal. Its involvement in high-profile missions like the 2018 Syria strikes, along with its use in ongoing training and readiness exercises, underscores its critical role in maintaining global security and deterrence.

Finnish F-35 Acquisition

As part of the HX Fighter Program aimed at replacing its aging F/A-18 Hornets, Finland initiated the process of acquiring F-35 fighters. The Finnish government announced the decision to procure 64 F-35A Lightning II jets in December 2021, following a comprehensive evaluation that included contenders like the Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault Rafale, Saab Gripen, and Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet.

This acquisition, estimated at around €10 billion (approximately $11.3 billion), is designed to significantly enhance Finland’s air defense capabilities and ensure interoperability with NATO and allied forces, despite Finland not being a NATO member. The cost encompasses not only the aircraft but also the necessary equipment, maintenance, training, and infrastructure upgrades essential to support the new fleet.