|JANE'S DEFENCE WEEKLY - JULY 20, 2005
Norway pushes naval strike missile for JSF
JORIS JANSSEN LOK JDW Special Correspondent
· Kongsberg is developing a multi-purpose stealth cruise missile
· Australia is a possible partner in the scheme
· Norwegian Parliament is to make a decision on a replacement for the F-16 in 2008
Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace and the Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNoAF) are positioning the Kongsberg-developed NSM naval strike missile as the starting point for developing a multi-purpose, stealth cruise missile that could be used by Lockheed Martin's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).
Australia is one of the potential partner nations that the Norwegians are looking to for support of such a scheme.
The NSM has been developed, but not yet ordered, as an anti-ship weapon for the new frigates and littoral combat craft of the Royal Norwegian Navy (RNoN).
Kongsberg and the RNoAF are now proposing the development of a multirole variant that would be capable of precision attack against a wide variety of land, littoral and naval targets.
"A study has concluded that it is possible to carry two missiles of this new type - called 'Norseman' or 'Norwegian Multi-Role Missile' - internally in the [F-35A] version of the JSF that is being looked at by Norway," said Lieutenant Colonel Bård Solheim, overall co-ordinator for future fighter capabilities with the RNoAF air operations inspectorate at Rygge Air Station.
"In addition, it will be possible to carry such missiles externally on the JSF, the Eurofighter or a range of other aircraft types," he said in the latest issue of the RNoAF internal publication Luftled.
According to Col Solheim, a 2,000-flying-hour fighter pilot who has
recently supported the NSM flight test programme over the Mediterranean piloting Northrop F-5B chase aircraft, the capability would represent a "unique and cost-saving flexibility".
The NSM is a 3.5 m long, 350 kg stealth missile that is believed to be
capable of a range of around 200 km. The weapon has a 125 kg warhead and a dual-band imaging infra-red seeker for target verification and homing.
Col Solheim said that the RNoAF would be collaborating with Australia in determining the operational requirements and specifications for a
multi-role derivative of NSM. "Like Norway, Australia has sovereign
responsibilities for vast sea and coastal areas and is for that reason
interested in the new multi-role weapon," he claimed.
Col Solheim said that JSF prime contractor Lockheed Martin was also
"strongly in the picture" - despite the fact that the US company itself is marketing a stealth multirole strike missile for use by the JSF: the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Stand-off Missile (JASSM).
Lockheed Martin's interest in seeing an NSM-derivative integrated onto the JSF would be linked to a perceived need to involve Norway (a Level 3 partner in the JSF system development and demonstration programme) and the country's industry, notably Kongsberg, more deeply in the JSF programme.
According to Kongsberg programme manager Jarle Naess, also quoted in
Luftled, the cost, operational and technical feasibility study for a
multi-role NSM variant will be completed by 1 September 2006.
Norway's parliament is expected to take a decision on the procurement of an F-16 replacement fighter aircraft for the RNoAF during 2008.
Naess said that "ideally, the integration and production of the Norwegian Multi-Role Missile should be part of the overall package that is to be negotiated with either Lockheed Martin [for the F-35A], Eurofighter or other suppliers".
Depending on a green light from the Norwegian government and parliament, the new NSM variant could be ready around 2015 - in time to meet the planned introduction of an F-16 replacement fighter in the RNoAF.
Naess described the future NSM variant as having the ability to
autonomously fly a covert trajectory and find and identify the target using an on-board library of target characteristics.
Alternatively, the missile may also be manually controlled all the way to the target by the pilot in the launching aircraft, the crew of a P-3C Orion patrol aircraft or special forces on the ground, in order to meet stringent rules of engagement that demand positive target identification via datalink.
* On 29 June, Kongsberg and the Norwegian armed forces conducted another successful live firing of an NSM at the French Mediterranean test range off Toulon. According to the company, the missile (designated test round U7) followed a "sophisticated flight path, featuring a number of sharp turns and height and velocity shifts, before striking a target ship."
"The firing test has demonstrated important new functions, further reducing the project risk," said Tom Gerharsen, president of Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace.