Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace to Fulfil a £72.1M Joint Strike Missile Order for the Japanese Air Force

This Monday Norway’s Kongsberg Group’s defence division, Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace has been granted a supply contract from the Japanese military. The contract will govern an order for Joint Strike Missiles (JSMs), the total order is priced at 820M KR or £72.1M for an unspecified number of units to be delivered at a non-disclosed time. The order is the latest in a series of munitions supply contracts between Kongsberg and Japan, beginning in March 2019 and related to the supply of JSMs to Japan’s armed forces. The orders which have been placed since that date, have been concluded with the objective of enhancing the potency of Japan’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) variant A fleet. The Japanese Air Force has been building up its F-35A JSF fleet since 2017 with a current F-35A inventory of twelve jets and a further forty two units on order. The administration of the contract will see a dual operation between the Japanese defence ministry’s procurement agency, the Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency (ATLA) and the system’s manufacturer Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace. Kongsberg’s facilities in Norway will fulfil the producer and hardware supplier role, whilst ATLA will integrate the JSM units into the Japanese Air Force. The consistent provision of JSM orders will maintain a steady build up of munitions in preparation for the increasing number of F35A’s in its arsenal. The JSM acquisition will go towards accomplishing Japan’s goal of maintaining a significant technological lead between it and its regional rivals, in an increasingly unstable Asia-Pacific region.

Kongsberg’s Joint Strike Missile has been developed from 2012’s ship mounted Naval Strike Missile (NSM) presently in use with the Polish, Norwegian, German, Malaysian and US navies. The JSM deviates from its father system through being optimized for aerial usage, with a particular penchant for being paired with the F-35 JSF. The development of the NSM and JSM has been achieved through funding assistance from the Royal Norwegian Air Force, the first force to operate the JSM. The JSM weighs 416kg with a length x height x width distribution of 4.00m x 0.52m x 0.48m. The platform propels itself towards the target at a high subsonic speed of 0.7 – 0.9 of a Mach. The system’s subsonic nature allows a smaller engine, consuming less fuel providing a larger range for the missile placed at 100 nautical miles or 115 non-nautical miles. The alternate benefit of the missile’s subsonic construction, lies in the enhanced manoeuvre abilities present as a result of slower speeds, bestowing a greater degree of movement freedom without risking a crash. The munition derives its excellent survivability qualities through travelling at a super low altitude, flying below the typical radar detection window. The JSM is afforded additional protection through the use of passive sensors, delivering key anti-countermeasure data. The missile’s delivery is manageable through traditional mono-strike detonation or as part of a multi-warhead strike detonation within an organized multi-fighter attack, forming a time on target launch capacity. The weapon’s targeting module utilizes autonomous target recognition and clutter discriminating fire control, to deliver accurate fire on request.

The Joint Strike Missile’s manufacturer, Kongsberg Defence and Aerospace is part of the larger Kongsberg Group. The Kongsberg Group was founded in 1814 and employes 11,000 employees across the maritime, defence and aerospace sectors. The company is based in north-east Norway, in the small town of Kongsberg. The Kongsberg Group has been led by Geir Håøy since 2016 with Kongsberg Defence and Aerospace being under the direction of Executive Vice President, Eirik Lie. The company has an illustrious history in defence manufacture, having developed and marketed 1888’s renowned Krag-Jorgensen Rifle to the Danish, Norweigan and American armies. Kongsberg’s post-war contribution to the defence sector have come primarily in the form of nautical construction, building the highly successful 370kg delay-fuse 130kg warhead Penguin Anti-Ship missile in 1972, followed by the HUGIN AUV survey platform during the 1990s. The NSM and JSM joined the product line up in 2012 and 2013 respectively. The Japanese Air Force, the terminal client of this order is composed of 50,000 personnel and operates a 740 strong complement of aircraft. The air force formally known as the Japanese Air Self-Defence Force is currently based at the joint US-Japanese Yokota Air Base. The strength of the ties between the two nations have ensured the delivery of the F-35A fleet. Kongsberg is now able to exploit this intense relationship as a door into the strict Japanese defence market, traditionally monopolized by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The successful delivery of the JSM orders will potentially put the Kongsberg Group in a strong position to permanently establish itself in this most difficult market. If Kongsberg can build itself a reputation in Japan’s defence establishment the rewards could be impressive for both the company and the prestige of the Norwegian defence industry.