US to Acquire Norwegian Joint Strike Missiles for F-35A Stealth Jets

F-35A Expands Strike Capabilities with New JSM Contract

American F-35As will soon undertake long-range stand-off anti-surface strikes following the US government’s $141 million contract with Norway’s Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace (KDA) for the Joint Strike Missile (JSM), as announced by the Department of Defense on May 31, 2024.

The “undefinitized contract action for JSM production Lot 1 includes all up rounds, containers, and test equipment for the JSM,” according to the DoD. “Work will be performed in Kongsberg, Norway, and is expected to be completed by August 31, 2026.” This procurement is categorized as a “sole source acquisition,” meaning it was made without tendering and competitive bidding.

JSM Overview

The JSM, an air-launched strike missile designed to fit into the F-35’s internal weapons bay, is intended for complex missions such as Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW) and land attacks, targeting highly defended and high-value assets on sea, coastal waters, or land. It is the air-launched version of Kongsberg’s Naval Strike Missile (NSM), with a high-subsonic speed, weighing 416 kg, 4 meters long, and a range of approximately 275 km (150 nautical miles).

Tactical Utility

The JSM offers off-board, on-board, and in-flight mission planning capabilities, engaging targets based on predefined Rules-of-Engagement. This capability supports NATO’s vision for equipment interchangeability among allied nations, enhancing the tactical utility of the missile. The missile can receive target coordinates and information on the ground before launch, simplifying the pilot’s task of target acquisition and engagement. This capability is particularly useful against peer adversaries, similar to the British-French Storm Shadow/SCALP-EG missile used by Ukrainian forces against Russian targets.

Strategic Importance

The JSM’s utility extends to the predominantly maritime theater of the western Pacific, where anti-land and anti-shipping strikes are crucial against the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) vessels and island bases in the South China Sea. Unlike larger missiles like the AGM-158C LRASM and AGM-158A JASSM, which the F-35 cannot carry internally without compromising stealth, the JSM fits within the F-35’s internal weapons bay, maintaining its stealth capabilities.

Integration with the F-35

Kongsberg has been working to integrate the JSM with the F-35 since the “Block-4 update” project in 2018. The JSM was developed as part of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program and was chosen as the primary anti-ship weapon for F-35A/B/C fighter jets, complementing the LRASM missiles for F/A-18 Super Hornet fighters.

Consistent with F-35’s Strike Orientation

The JSM enhances the F-35’s role as a strike fighter, capable of acting as an airborne tactical command post, trading data with other F-35s and various air and ground assets. This role aligns with the F-35’s core doctrinal orientation and meets emerging defense needs in scenarios involving Russia and China, where conventional land and surface strengths make complete air superiority challenging for Western allies.

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