F-35: rear war for Lockheed Martin's Finnish victory?

(To Roberto Favazzo)

The December 6 announcement that Finland would acquire F-35 fighters as part of its € 10 billion HX program to replace the F-18s currently used by its Air Force was facilitated by Lockheed Martin's lobbying effort. The group's country manager, Scott Davis, was previously a defense attache at the US embassy in Finland. Lockheed first hired the services of the lobbying firm Hill + Knowlton Strategies, but he also hired Jarmo Lindberg, the former Finnish defense chief of staff, shortly after his retirement in August 2019, Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat revealed. In 2020, Lindberg's company, Suomalainen kenraalikonsultointi, established in January of that year, generated revenues totaling around 109.000 euros, all from this client.

Before Finland made its final decision, four other competitors were fighting for the contract together with Lockheed: the US company Boeing, the European consortium Eurofighter, the Swedish group Saab and France's Dassault Aviation. Dassault used the services of the lobbying firm Rud Pedersen Public Affairs Company AB, which is majority-owned by its founder, Morten Rud Pedersen, former director general of the European Trade Union Confederation and former adviser to Mogens Lykketoft, president of the Danish Social Democrat Festa. One of Pedersen's staff is Marcus Rantala, Finnish defense secretary from 2015 to 2019 in the government led by centrist Juha Sipilä. Rantala allegedly had less good ties to the current Social Democratic government led by Sanna Marin.

Saab country manager for Finland, Anders Gardberg, was a Finnish army officer and then defense attache in Stockholm, while its aircraft sales manager, Magnus Skogberg, handled the campaign in Finland at group level. . Saab has bet on Miltton Networks to promote its offering, which was built around its JAS 39 multi-purpose fighter. Gripen. Miltton is owned by Mathias Järnström, managing director of the Miltton Group. Miltton Networks has been led since April 2019 by Stefan Wallin, a former centrist politician from the Swedish-speaking Finnish minority. Wallin briefly served as Finnish defense minister in 2011 and 2012, but this was in the center-right government led by Jyrki Katainen.

Regarding compensations, Saab offered Finland 46 operational condition maintenance projects and 72 research projects related to the project Gripen.

BAE Systems, which manufactures the Eurofighter aircraft Typhoon with Airbus Group and Leonardo and where Finnish leader Jonathan Masters was in charge of matters, he hired Pete Saarnivaara's communications agency, Kaiku Helsinki, which in turn has called upon the services of public relations veteran Markku Vänskä Campaign. Regarding the offset, BAE, through the British Minister of State for Defense Procurement Jeremy Quin, invited Finland in April to participate in the ECRS-Mk 2 radar program in exchange for the choice of the offer of Euro Fighter.

Boeing, which was looking to win the Finnish contract for its F / A-18 tactical fighter Super Hornet, pinned his hopes on Alain Garcia, his head of international hunting sales in Switzerland and Finland, who won several contracts for the group in Egypt, Kuwait and Oman during his previous position in the group.

In addition to its lobbying success, Lockheed Martin has also benefited from the closer defense relations that have developed between Helsinki and Washington in recent years to combat the threat posed by Russia. In 2016, Finland and the United States signed a declaration in favor of closer defense cooperation, which later integrated Sweden in 2018.

Finland participates in numerous military exercises with the United States, the European Union and NATO. While not a member of the Alliance, it hosts NATO's European Center of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats and participates in its Estonian-based Cooperative Cyber ​​Defense Center of Excellence.

The United States has been Finland's main foreign arms supplier for several years. In January 2021, US foreign military sales to Finland, mainly in the form of missiles, amounted to $ 1,8 billion.

Photo: Lockheed Martin / Saab / BAE Systems