Production of Finnish and foreign aircraft

Production line of the Saab 35 S DrakenAcquisition of interceptors went on throughout the 1960s. Politics played a part in the development of the situation. The MiG-21 fighters bought from the Soviet Union in 1962 did not completely meet expectations.

In April 1970, the government made the policy decision to buy 12 Swedish Saab 35S Draken fighters. The planes were assembled in Finland in Kuorevesi, where the new so- called Draken Hall was built to provide production space. Assembly work went on from the summer of 1972 to July 1975.

Finnish aircraft production is revived in the early 1970s

Leko on a test flightThe government thought it important to ensure that there was enough work for the Finnish aircraft industry. By the beginning of the 1970s it had been almost 15 years since the last plane designed in Finland had been produced.

Valmet Oy and the Ministry of Trade and Industry founded the Department for the Development of Aviation Industry to revive Finnish design. The department was led by Elias Järvineva, who had participated in development in the sector since the 1950s. As a result the Leko-70 project was launched aiming at production of a Finnish-designed basic training plane. The Leko-70 prototype flew for the first time in July 1975.

Selecting a new training fighter with the test flight section

Test flight training was continued in the 1960s and 70s. Finnish pilots had also taken part in test flight courses held in France and the newly acquired international know-how was passed on in Finland. In the 1970s, test flight engineers and test pilots were included in the aircraft acquisition processes of the Air Force. Plane evaluations were needed in the acquisition of, for example, basic training planes and training jet planes.

The professional opinion of the test flight section was sometimes disregarded due to financial or political reasons. On the other hand, improvement suggestions to the Hawk planes, made by the test flight section during the acquisition of training jet planes, were also taken up by the English themselves.

Finnish Vinkas and English Hawks guarantee employment in the early 1980s

Test pilot course in the 1970sThe development process of the Leko-70 was long. The aircraft was developed by chief designer Elias Järvineva, project test pilot Jyrki Laukkanen and the engineers of Valmet Oy for several years to meet the demands set by the Air Force. A contract was finally signed in January 1977 for acquisition of 30 basic training planes. The first aircraft of the Vinka series was completed in 1980 and the last one delivered in 1982.

In foreign aviation exhibitions the aircraft went under the name Valmet L-70 Miltrainer, and it was the first Finnish plane to attempt entry into foreign markets. In 1982 the Valmet-produced, Finnish-designed PIK-23 Towmaster target towing plane took off on its first flight.

In December 1979, the government agreed to the acquisition of 50 Hawk training jet planes. Four planes were bought ready-made and the remainder were built in the Kuorevesi plant, to which a Hawk Hall was added for the project. The building of training jet planes made a significant contribution to the employment situation ; at its best, the Kuorevesi factory had 635 employees.