Finnish President Sauli Niinisto on Tuesday denied that his country was buying new fighter jets from American plane maker Boeing, following remarks by President Donald Trump.
Finland is looking to replace its aging fleet of 62 F/A-18 Hornet jets with multirole fighter aircraft in a procurement estimated at 7-10 billion euros by 2025.
‘One of the things that is happening is you’re purchasing large amounts of our great F-18 aircraft from Boeing and it’s one of the great planes, the great fighter jets,’ Trump said on Monday at a news conference with his Finnish counterpart in the White House.
PLANE TALK: President Donald Trump said Monday that Finland was ‘purchasing large amounts of our great F-18 aircraft from Boeing,’ but Finland’s president said it was not a done deal
Trump was responding to a question about whether the U.S. would provide Finland assistance if relations deteriorated with Russia.
He continued: ‘And you’re purchasing lots of other military equipment, and, I think, purchasing very wisely. I know all of the military equipment and I actually agree with everything you purchased. We talked about it before.’
Niinisto, who was standing next to Trump, looked surprised but did not follow up on the comment.
He later denied the deal with Boeing on his Twitter account and on Tuesday in Washington.
President Donald J. Trump (R) and President Sauli Niinisto of Finland (L) hold a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 28 August 2017
A McDonnell Douglas F-18 Hornet military airplane of the Finnish Air Force emits so-called ‘flares’ countermeasure munition during the International Air Show ILA in Schoenefeld near Berlin on September 15, 2012
President Niinisto did not correct the president about the airplanes, but did not that Trump wasn’t correct when he said he called on the same Finnish reporter two times in a row
‘It seems that on the sale side, past decisions and hopes about future decisions have mixed … The purchase is just starting, and that is very clear here,’ Niinisto told Finnish reporters.
Helsinki is expected to request that European and U.S. plane manufacturers provide quotations for new jets in 2018, with a final decision made in the early 2020s.
A government working group has listed possible candidates as Saab’s Jas Gripen, Dassault Aviation´s Rafale, Boeing´s Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin´s F-35 and the Eurofighter, made by Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain.
Trump’s comments caused shock in Finland, Defense News reported.
In this image released by the U.S. Navy courtesy of Lockheed Martin, the U.S. Navy variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35C, conducts a test flight February 11, 2011 over the Chesapeake Bay. Lt. Cmdr. Eric ‘Magic’ Buus flew the F-35C for two hours, checking instruments that will measure structural loads on the airframe during flight maneuvers
A member of Finnish Air Force fires flares with an F-18 at the Hungarian Air Force base of Kecskemet, 100 kilometres south-east of Budapest, on August 17 2008 during the International Air Show and Military Display
President Donald Trump shakes hands with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto during their joint news conference, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017, in the East Room of the White House in Washington
‘President Trump’s remarks are baffling. There are still years to run in the fighter replacement competition before a final decision is reached. If the leadership of the United States harbors the idea that the matter is a done deal, then this is not good,’ Matti Vanhanen, chairman of the Finnish national parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, said, according to the publication.
Niinistö hasn’t said whether the purchase competition came up during his talks with Trump, although Trump ended his own remark by saying, ‘We talked about it before.’
Finland plans to put the new multi-role fighters into service by 2025-2030.
Trump has gone back and forth with Boeing during his presidency. He tweeted about ‘out of control costs’ of the Air Force One replacement, renegotiated for price reductions, and threatened to buy Boeing jets to try to gain price reductions for Lockheed f-35 planes.
Trump also visited the firm’s massive South Carolina plant, and has hosted company chief executive Dennis Muilenburg multiple times.