VICTORIA, Australia — Minister for Defence Kevin Andrews announced today that Australia has entered into a co-operative agreement with the Norwegian Ministry of Defence to develop an advanced maritime strike missile for the Lockheed Martin F-35A joint fighter, which is being procured by both countries.

Norway's Kongsberg Defence Aerospace AS is developing the Joint Strike Missile (JSM) to meet its maritime strike requirements.

Andrews said the co-operative agreement will ensure the weapon will be ready in time for Australia's F-35A final operating capability (FOC) in 2023.

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"This agreement builds on the countries' long-standing bilateral cooperation on research and development of Defence equipment, and acknowledges the importance of a robust maritime strike capability to Norway and Australia," he said. "Participating now in a co-operative JSM development program with Norway will maximise the cost effectiveness of Australia's contribution, and ensure the weapon capability is developed and integrated onto the F-35A in the timeline required by Australia, should the Joint Strike Missile be ultimately considered for acquisition by Government later this decade."

BAE Systems Australia is working with Kongsberg Defence Aerospace to integrate an independent sensor on the JSM to detect and identify hostile radars.

"This agreement enables BAE Systems Australia and Kongsberg to continue their industrial cooperation on the passive radio frequency (RF) sensor supporting its transition to qualification and manufacture," said Graeme Bent, BAE's director of Land and Integrated Systems.

"We look forward to working with both governments by assisting with the JSM F-35 system integration effort, and supporting any future needs the Australian Government might have," Bent said.

BAE Systems Australia will develop and deliver a pre-production standard passive RF sensor in April 2015 and the work will also include fit checks, system integration and flight testing for a development-standard missile.

The Australian government has approved the purchase of 72 F-35A joint strike fighters, of which two have been delivered and in service at the F-35 International Pilot Training Centre at Luke AFB Ariz. Norway has plans to buy up to 52 F-35As.

Nigel Pittaway is the Australia correspondent for Defense News.

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