The Norwegian government in May presented a bill in parliament that aims to secure completion of Kongsberg's Joint Strike Missile and prepare it for integration on the F-35. (Kongsberg)
HELSINKI — The ambitious private-state partnership behind Kongsberg Defence System’s Naval Strike Missile (NSM) and Joint Strike Missile (JSM) programs is driven by government support for advanced precision strike weapons that can bolster Norway’s defense sector and deliver exports.
Norway’s Ministry of Defense has assigned priority export support status to the two programs. Effectively, this means that NSM and JSM will receive continued state support to achieve prospective international sales among NATO partner states that are committed to acquiring the F-35.
The effort to develop precision-capable long-range missiles is centered on Kongsberg’s JSM. In May, the government presented a bill in parliament that aims to secure completion of the JSM and prepare it for integration to the F-35.
The bill provides $622 million in state monies to finance the third and final phase in JSM’s development. Phase 3is set to conclude in 2017, while integration of the missile on the F -35 is due to be completed as part of the first round of upgrades on the F-35 from 2022-24.
The JSM and NSM projects are regarded as fundamental to countering aggression against Norwegian air, land and sea territories. This is especially the case for the strategic High North, where most of the newest Fridtjof Nansen-class frigates and future F-35 fighter capacity will be centered.
The JSM is intended to deliver an unprecedented level of firepower and precision strike capability that can engage highly defended sea and land targets at long range.
For Kongsberg, the bill would guarantee the “continuous development and finalization of a complete product in 2017,” said Harald Ånnestad, the president of Kongsberg Defence Systems.
Ånnestad sees “a significant international market potential” for JSM over the next 30 years that should generate important industrial spin-offs, including the creation of 450 jobs at JSM production and support units in Norway, while providing a steady stream of orders for more than 100 Norwegian contractors “for decades.”
The precision-guided anti-surface JSM missile builds on the NSM and has a similar warhead. Unlike the more limited NSM, which is deployed on Norwegian naval ships, including Fridtjof Nansen frigates, the JSM’s imaging infrared seeker is capable of striking land and naval targets.
While ostensibly developed to bolster national defenses, the private-state partnership behind JSM and NSM also is aimed at building a strong circle of international customers, particularly for the JSM, which obtained US backing in 2012 for integration on the F-35.
Although the US has not committed to deploying the JSM on its F-35s, the integration of the Norwegian missile could unlock export opportunities for Kongsberg, and by extension benefitting Norwegian subcontractors, Norwegian Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide said.
“I strongly believe that there is no better or more capable missile of this type on the market, or developed today. For us the JSM is considered necessary for the F-35 to deliver the operational capability we aim for,” Søreide said.
Norway is hoping to find international partners and customers to share the JSM’s development and integration costs among NATO members and allies. Within the NATO family, Australia and Canada have shown the most interest. The total cost of development and integration of the JSM is estimated to reach $1.4 billion by 2018.
“We are seeing a lot of interest in the JSM. Australia has recently taken an interest in the development and integration of the missile, and discussions have begun to try and find a way to collaborate,” Søreide said.
Norway is also hoping to lift sales of the NSM, which is mainly deployed on new-generation Aegis-equipped Fridtjof Nansen frigates.
A collaborative move by the MoD and Kongsberg saw the Navy send the frigate Fridtjof Nansen to the US-hosted Rim of the Pacific exercise in June. The exercise was used as a shop window for the NSM, which was fired from the frigate at a Pacific missile range. Kongsberg also demonstrated its Sea Protector close-area ship protection system. ■