Norway's Kongsberg has warned that the country needs a commitment from the US government within six months to integrate a national-specific missile on the Lockheed Martin F-35, or it could withdraw from the programme.
So far, Norway has received no assurance that the Kongsberg joint strike missile (JSM) will be integrated as part of the Block 4 software update on the F-35 in 2019.
The absence of such a commitment could prompt the Norwegian parliament to reject an expected request early next year from the nation's defence ministry to buy the first four F-35s, in order to launch training activities in 2016.
"That is what I think is the critical issue [for the parliament's decision]", said Bjorne Bjune, Kongsberg vice president of business development, speaking at the Air Force Association's annual convention in Washington DC on 20 September. "That decision needs to be forthcoming."
Integrating the JSM as the Norwegian F-35's primary surface-to-air missile system killer is considered an absolute requirement by Oslo, Bjune said. Norway has already invested $1 billion to adapt the naval strike missile into the air-launched JSM, and is planning to spend a further $200 million.
Norway wants the US Department of Defense to spend $20 million to integrate the JSM on the F-35 Block 4, with Norway to contribute an equal amount.
Tom Burbage, Lockheed's executive vice president for the F-35, said that the JSM integration decision must be made by a committee of operational advisers to the F-35 joint programme office.
But Bjune said that the committee's decision-making process will be too slow to support the Norwegian parliament's vote next year.
Kongsberg and the Norwegian government want the office of the US secretary of defence to commit to the JSM integration, ahead of the committee's process.
If the missile is approved, Kongsberg plans to launch flight tests of the JSM in 2015 and 2016, Bjune added.