NSM and JSM: A Norwegian Contribution to the “Arsenal of Democracy”


By Robbin Laird

With the impact of the Ukraine war ongoing, one observation seems clear with regard to the preparation of the liberal democracies for war rather than military operations: we don’t really have an arsenal of democracy like we once did.

When confronting industrial age war, supplies become critical and an ability to ramp up rapidly depleting supplies because of combat is a key capability for the conduct of war.

The West has been prepared for warfighting of limited duration or “just in time” operational support; not war.

Rebuilding an “arsenal of democracy” frankly is beyond what any state is currently capable of doing. This means that the Western allies need to work together to shape a more comprehensive defense capability with strategic depth.

An example of such a contribution is Kongsberg’s naval strike missile and its air-delivered derivative the joint strike missile.

I first confronted the existence of the NSM when working for the Department of the Navy in my work on the Aegis system. The Norwegian’s purchased a variant of the Spanish frigate which carried the Aegis system and began to work on a replacement for its Penguin missile, a development which would lead to the development and then operation of its new Naval Strike Missile.

Then when I worked as a consultant for the Department of Defense during the Administration of George W. Bush on cooperative programs within NATO and then on USAF international programs, I began my work on the coming of the F-35 and what I labelled then as the F-35 global enterprise.

It was clear that with the interfaces on the F-35 and the large number of aircraft to be built for global as well as U.S. forces, that a missile manufacturer that built for the fleet could significantly benefit over the legacy aircraft model.

The Norwegian Defence Industry typically exports about 85% of what they make, so aiming for development of products that can be exported is crucial strategy for the Norwegian defense industry base.

And as the NSM has been adopted by a wide range of allies as well, the entire family of missiles can be seen to be significant contributors to the arsenal of democracy.

Currently, there are nine customers for the NSM: Norway, Poland, Malaysia, Germany, United States (for both the US Navy and USMC), Romania, Canada, Spain and Australia. When I was in Poland last year, I talked with the Polish military about their use of a truck-mounted version of the NSM which they moved to various points of interest to Poland, much as the Marines are now doing with their approach to mobile basing in support of the U.S. Navy.

And the agreement with Raytheon has meant that the Kongsberg missile has an additional assembly capability located in the United States which can generate a ramp up in production as well. And this historical partnership based in the NASAMS has allowed the two companies to shape innovative ways to work together in the common allied interests, such as the evolution of the capability of the NASAMS system.

As described in a September 7, 2002, Raytheon press release:

“Raytheon Missiles & Defense, a Raytheon Technologies business, and Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace, in partnership with the Air Force Research Laboratory Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation (SDPE) office, conducted a first-of-its kind Air Base Air Defense experiment.

“During the demonstration, the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System, known as NASAMS™, fired AIM-9X®, AMRAAM®, and AMRAAM-Extended Range missiles, engaging cruise missile targets at various distances.

“We demonstrated how integrated defense solutions enable the warfighter to deploy the right effector at the right time and at the right target,” said Wes Kremer, president of Raytheon Missiles & Defense. “Using fielded systems, our goal is to provide customers the quickest, most effective way to protect their people and critical infrastructure with layered cruise missile defense.”

“This complex experiment assessed NASAMS’ operational ability to fire the three missile variants when integrated with U.S. Army radars and U.S. Air Force’s operationally fielded command and control capability, the Battle Space Command and Control Center, or BC3, developed by Raytheon Solipsys. During the demonstration, the radar first passed targeting information to BC3, then BC3 relayed key data to the KDA Fire Distribution Center for threat evaluation and weapon assignment. The operator in the FDC used that information to close the kill chain by selecting and firing the most effective missile from the NASAMS multi-missile canister launcher.

“Our intent was to inform strategic investment decisions through the evaluation of low-cost, high technology readiness level capabilities that could provide near term air base air defense capability,” said Jim Simonds, SDPE experiment program manager, U.S. Air Force. “This layered defense solution can provide immediate defensive capability at a fraction of the price of currently fielded systems.”

“NASAMS, a highly adaptable medium-range air defense solution, is jointly developed and produced by RMD and Norway’s Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace.

“This experiment demonstrates NASAMS’ flexibility, providing the operator with enhanced firing alternatives to successfully execute complex threat scenarios employing a range of missiles,” said Eirik Lie, president of Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace.

The JSM is in development and close to deployment by the world’s F-35 forces. The NSM becoming transfigured into the JSM meant modifications to fit the internal bay of the F-35. It has a longer range than the NSM dependent on flight profile. It has two-way communications capability which it allows it to be used in a wolfpack concept of operations or retargeted in flight by a designated third party, which could include an ally as well.

Initial users of the missile will be Japan and Norway with the U.S., the UK, Australia and South Korea likely early adapters for their F-35s as well.

The JSM can be launched from a variety of sea-borne, land or air platforms.

And it is a kill web weapon, in that it can be re-targeted in flight by a third-party system, such as an airborne command post.  Abort mission and retargeting aspects of NSM is taken into account by the use of target matching capabilities combined with a wide field of view seeker imaging target sensor.

In a kill-web context the NSM is a rapid deployable effector that can respond to both naval and land target sets based upon 3rd party ISR resources in the web. The capabilities of the missile are discussed in both the brochure and the video at the end of this article.

But the simple point is that the missile is being widely used by many allies and can be used by a diversity of platforms.

I had a chance at the Euronaval exhibition held during the week of October 16, 2022 to talk about the NSM with Stein Engen, Regional Sales Director, Kongsberg Strike Missiles. Engen started by discussing the origin of the NSM.

“The threat scenario in developing the missile has always been the Russian Navy. We have a small navy and air force, so we needed a highly accurate and capable missile to replace the Penguin.

“As the missile developed and then was deployed by our navy, and its ability to be used against both land and sea targets became recognized by other navies to be a market leader. The evaluations made by the U.S. Navy and other allied navies underscored that NSM is cost-efficient weapon because of its accuracy and ability to get to the desired target, even in contested area and to deliver its effects even against well defended strategic target sets.

“The advanced target matching capabilities of the NSM IR seeker enables strike against prioritized targets and also avoid hitting unintentional targets and civilian shipping .”

And missiles like the NSM and JSM represent payloads to missions as key capability.

With the flexibility of launch point coupled with the flexibility in the decision of where the inflight missile needs to target, these are very capable kill web weapons.

And as allies share commonality in the missile base, not only can you build up stockpiles, but you can exercise shared use of these weapons in dealing with the adversary in situations where the allies are operating as a distributed force but seeking integrated effects from the coalition operation.

Finally, Engen noted that the heritage of the missile was that it is part of a long-standing commitment of the Norwegian government to excellence in this area of research, development and manufacturing.

Engen noted that “NSM is not a standalone product. It is part of generations of Norwegian R and D on other products as well.”

In other words, the capability represented in NSM and JSM can be seen to a key part of the wider effort to ensure that there is a viable “arsenal of democracy.”

Featured Photo: A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon carries a developmental test version of Norway’s Joint Strike Missile. The 416th Flight Test Squadron wrapped up its JSM testing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Christian Turner).



Photo by Christian Turner 

412th Test Wing Public Affair