Kongsberg Naval Strike Missiles are seen in six-pack launchers in a notional arrangement on a model of the US Navy's Independence-class littoral combat ship displayed at the Sea-Air-Space Exposition. (Christopher P. Cavas / Staff)
NATIONAL HARBOR, MD. — When navies gather this summer in the warm waters near Hawaii for the biannual Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises, among them will be at least one warship more at home in the cold waters of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans.
The Norwegian frigate Fridtjof Nansen will take part in RIMPAC, aiming to launch a Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile (NSM) at a target ship provided by the US Navy.
It will be the first time Norway has fired an NSM in a RIMPAC, as the missile became operational in 2012.
“It’s quite a sophisticated weapon,” Norwegian Navy Cmdr. Tony Schei explained here at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Exposition. Schei is in charge of training Norway’s sailors to use the surface-to-surface weapon, and is working with missile manufacturer Kongsberg to show off the NSM.
The missile’s infrared seekers, Schei said, are able to discern individual ship silhouettes and shapes, allowing it to bypass targets such as civilian fishing ships and aim for an enemy warship.
“Today navies are not fighting total wars,” he explained. In a limited conflict, “you can win the battle but lose the war” if the wrong target is struck.
The NSM can be programmed to strike a particular ship, identifying it from among a cluster of other ships or land masses. The weapon can also be instructed to ignore specific targets, or to fly to an area and look for a target within a prescribed patch of sea. If no suitable target is found, “the missile terminates at sea in the most safe manner,” Schei said.
The 13-foot-long missile has a launch weight of nearly 900 pounds, and carries a 240-pound warhead. It is loaded into individual canisters intended to keep a missile up to 10 years without maintenance, Schei said.
“So far we’ve kept missiles for over two years, and they run fine,” he added.
The canisters can be configured in a variety of fashions, from single and double installations to six- or eight-pack arrangements. At the Kongsberg display here, models of both versions of the US Navy’s littoral combat ship were shown with notional NSM installations.
In addition to sea-based missiles serving the Norwegian Navy, a land-based version is operated by Poland. Kongsberg is developing a slimmer missile, the Joint Strike Missile (JSM), for use from F-35 joint strike fighters ordered by Norway.
“Kongsberg sees the JSM able to fit in a Mark 41 vertical launch system,” Schei said. Such a missile is being offered to Australia and Canada for shipboard use. ■