The US Air Force (USAF) has selected Kongsberg’s Joint Strike Missile (JSM) as its internal strike capability for its F-35A Lightning II multi-role aircraft.

According to a US Department of Defense update on 31 May 2024, this undefinitised contract – worth $141m (Nkr1.5bn) – provides all up rounds, containers and test equipment for the JSM.

The original equipment manufacturer, which has produced the stand-off missile since 2008, will continue production at its base in its namesake town of Kongsberg, Norway and complete the work by the end of August 2026.

Recently, the Nordic supplier welcomed the decision of the world’s largest operator of the F-35 – the US has nearly 400 F-35As in active service – to integrate its fifth-generation air-to-surface missile.

“The selection of JSMs by both the USAF and [the] Royal Norwegian Air Force also fully supports Nato’s vision for interchangeability of equipment between allied nations,” said Eirik Lie, Kongsberg’s president.

Joint Strike Missile on an F-16 pylon carried out at Orland main air station. Credit: Norwegian Armed Forces.

The missile system is primarily designed for integration with fixed-wing aircraft platforms to engage land and naval targets. It can be deployed to conduct anti-surface warfare and naval fire support missions in open sea, over land and littoral environments.

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Years of tests and evaluation from as early as 2011 have confirmed the missile’s integration with the F-35 platform, as well as the F-16 Fighting Falcon and F/A-18 combat aircraft. Later, Kongsberg went on to conduct a fit check of the JSM on the external pylons of one of the US’ F-35 aircraft in May 2013.

Until now the USAF had previously deployed a variety of munitions within the platform’s internal carriage including the Joint Direct Attack Munition, Joint Stand-Off Weapon, Paveway IV guided bombs, AIM-120C AMRAAM, Brimstone anti-armour missiles.

On its external pylons, the service has previously used the Joint Air to Surface Stand-Off Missile, AIM-9X Sidewinder, AIM-132 ASMRAAM and Storm Shadow missiles.

The Norwegian Government aims to ensure that the value generated for its defence industry equals the value of its acquisition of 52 F-35As, 28 of which are currently in active service. JSM is therefore a key part of Norwegian plans for industrial collaboration, and there is a considerable potential for sale of the JSM to foreign customers.