Japan has become the latest customer to sign up for the Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile (JSM) to arm its fleet of F-35 fifth-generation fighters. Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace announced the contract with Japan yesterday, March 11. The agreement covers the supply of “initial deliveries” comprising an undisclosed number of JSMs. Kongsberg and the Japanese government have not disclosed the value of the deal.
JSM development began in 2008 and was completed in mid-2018 after a series of successful validation test firings. The JSM is derived from the same company’s Naval Strike Missile, with which it shares many components, but the weapon has been scaled down to fit inside the weapon bays of the F-35.
“This is an important international breakthrough which demonstrates the importance of cooperation between Norwegian authorities, Norwegian Defence Research Establishment and Norwegian industry”, said CEO of Kongsberg Geir Håøy.
The JSM is currently the only long-range sea- and land-target missile that can be carried internally in the F-35 and thereby preserve the aircraft’s stealth capabilities.
“The international F-35 user consortium is showing great interest in the JSM and Kongsberg is very proud to have been selected by Japan to provide the JSM for their F-35 fleet. This is a major milestone for the JSM program, entering into the production phase”, added Eirik Lie, President, Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace AS.
The Japan Ministry of Defence announced its selection of the F-35A as the JASDF’s next-generation fighter on December 19, 2011, following the F-X competitive bidding process. The signing of an initial Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA), for four aircraft, was officially announced in June 2012, with the MoD stating that the cost of each F-35A amounted to approximately 10.2bn yen ($128m). Deliveries commenced during 2016, at which point the total requirement for the type amounted to 42 aircraft.
Funding for 34 F-35As has been approved through Fiscal Year 2018. Four aircraft were ordered under Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP) 8 (FY 2014), two under LRIP 9 (FY 2015), four under LRIP 10 (FY 2016), and six under LRIP 11 (FY 2017). LRIP 12 (FY 2018) included six jets for Japan.
Following assembly of the first four aircraft (AX-1 to AX-4) in the US, the remaining 38 were to be assembled at Nagoya in Japan by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. It has since been disclosed that local production will cease after the aircraft ordered through LRIP 12 and future deliveries will be from the US production line in Fort Worth, Texas.
The four US-built aircraft were delivered to Luke AFB, Arizona for training from August 2016 to March 2017 and transferred to Misawa in May 2018.
On December 17, 2018 the Japanese cabinet approved a plan to add an additional 105 F-35s to its planned fleet of 42 examples. In a press briefing, the chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga confirmed that the country’s Medium-Term Defence Program had been approved by the cabinet. Of the new total, 105 will be F-35As and 42 F-35Bs. Some of the latter may be for the navy.