Eurofighter aircraft from the UK Royal Air Force are being put through their paces in a series of evaluations in the cold conditions of Tampere in Finland, as part of the 2020 HX Challenge. Eurofighter is the first aircraft to take part in the Finnish Air Force’s series of Flight Evaluation Trials, which are being run as a key part of the ongoing HX programme — the competition being run by the Finnish Defence Forces to replace the country’s existing F/A-18 fleet

The trials programme will enable the Finnish Air Force to assess the performance of each aircraft, systems and sensors in the Finnish operating environment.

The Eurofighter trials will be led by an air crew from BAE Systems' Flight Operations team, headed by Chief Test Pilot, Steve Formoso, who spoke to media at the launch of the trial.

He said: "From my experience Eurofighter offers a combat-proven, robust and flexible platform that's available 24/7, 365 days a year to deliver capability, whether it's air-to-air or air-to-surface in any of the environments. We believe Eurofighter is able to be exploited within the Finnish environment and meets the needs of Finland for now, for the year, and for the future."

“As a pilot the platform is really easy to fly, simple to operate and it has a world class flight control system, which allows the pilot to really exploit the aerodynamic performance in any of those environments. This means pilots can get the most out of the Eurofighter whether it's taking it into an air dominance role or in an air-to-surface task. It can also swing very quickly between those roles.”

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Eurofighter will be tested under typical Finnish weather conditions to verify the performance claims made in the responses to the Request for Quotation documents submitted last year, along with performance values previously verified in laboratory tests.

Formoso said: “Finland presents a unique environment to operate in and we believe that Eurofighter is capable of operating within it and flexibly and effectively. We have an advanced range of sensors that feed information into the pilots and also into the wider networks. This mean the jet is able to seamlessly operate and share information and data tactically, while the pilots are operating within the environment. 

“Eurofighter can be deployed into a wide range of different environments and it's combat-proven within these environments."

"A good example is its role in Baltic Air Policing, which shows the platform is able to operate within an environment similar to Finland’s. However, we are well aware that Finland provides a unique challenge for a fighter aircraft and we look forward to working with the Finnish Air Force to show what the platform is capable of and to proving it within the unique environment here.”

Formoso, who has been flying Eurofighter since 2006 and operated it with the Royal Air Force and with industry, added: “Information is another key advantage Eurofighter offers. With Eurofighter the (mission) information is your information and is able to be exploited by Finland as part of their operational capability. Finland will own it which means it is able to do what it wants with it and can rapidly react to changes in threats, changes in targeting or changes in tactics as you fly.

“That information advantage will be complemented by a wide spectrum of weapons, both European and US, and again this allows Eurofighter to best exploit the targets that are out there — whether they are air or surface targets.”

Looking to the future Formoso said: “The Long Term Evolution of the platform is being developed so that Eurofighter continues to deliver capability out into the future and importantly, into timeframes that would support Finland's direct involvement in the programme. We’re already looking at better exploiting the architecture within the platform to allow the platform to operate in the future environments.”

Formoso said that this includes support for future weapons and display technology, so pilots are best served in terms of the information.