Ove Ronny Haraldsen
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1814–1900: THE BEGINNING
Kongsberg Vapenfabrikk (KV) founded.
Norway’s first hydro power turbine produced.
Railway line built to link Kongsberg and Christiania.
USA selects the Krag–Jorgensen as their rifle of choice.
1900–1945 MODERN TIMES
KV becomes the first company in Norway to introduce an eight-hour working day.
KV granted permission for civil production.
First anti-aircraft cannons produced.
1945–1960: INDUSTRIAL LEADER
Norwegian Parliament approves the largescale modernisation of KV.
Enters the hi-tech era with the L/70 antiaircraft cannon.
Weapons production expanded to include rockets.
1960–1987: INNOVATIVE BREAKTHROUGHS
Began development of systems for vessel positioning.
Anti-ship missile Penguin supplied to Royal Norwegian Navy.
Autochief control system makes breakthrough in Korea.
1987–1993: NEW START
KV is split into divisions. The Government sells off the car part, computer, gas turbine, maritime and oil divisions.
Acquisition of Horten company Norcontrol.
Defence division publicly listed and partially privatised.
1993–2019: GLOBAL PLAYER
Acquisition of Simrad.
First prototype of HUGIN demonstrated.
Introduction of NASAMS air defence system.
KONGSBERG acquires 49.9% of shares in the Finnish company Patria.
Kongsberg Digital established.
Construction of the world’s first autonomous, fully electric container ship announced
Acquisition of Rolls-Royce Commercial Marine made public
Acquisition of Aerospace Industrial Maintenance Norway
Employees from Kongsberg Maritime and Rolls- Royce Commercial Marine working and performing together.
Learn more: explore our history
It all began on 20 March 1814. The town of KONGSBERG was in the grip of decline and poverty, and new jobs were urgently needed. At the same time, a strong desire for national independence pervaded throughout Norway.
It was in this climate that mine manager Poul Steenstrup founded Kongsberg weapons factory. KONGSBERG weapons factory soon started to produce rifles for the Norwegian Armed Forces. Several models were developed and supplied during the 19th century.
A major international breakthrough came in 1888 when director Ole Hermann Johannes Krag and corps gunsmith Erik Jørgensen unveiled a prototype for a new magazine rifle. The mechanism that was used would completely revolutionise weapon production.
The rifle was first used as a military weapon by the Royal Danish Army in 1889. Three years later, the Krag–Jørgensen went global when the USA decided to equip its soldiers with the innovative rifle.
Production at KONGSBERG weapons factory was dominated by the Krag–Jørgensen until the end of the First World War in 1918. That year also saw the start of civilian production at KONGSBERG weapons factory.
The weapons factory was granted a permit to produce civil weapons and tools, as well as components for the shipping industry and whaling fleet.
The threat of war hung over Europe once again in the 1930s. The Spanish Civil War demonstrated to the world the destruction that could be wrought by bombs dropped from aircraft, prompting the Norwegian authorities to order the production of anti-aircraft cannons.
Some of these were deployed in battle when German forces invaded Norway on 9 April 1940. KONGSBERG weapons factory was under German control during the years of occupation between 1940 and 1945.
During those war years 40 mm Bofors guns, rifles, mitrailleuse guns and pistols were produced. However, production levels never reached the levels demanded by the occupying forces. This was partly due to the difficulty of access to raw materials, but resistance among factory employees also played a part.
After the end of the Second World War, Kongsberg weapons factory was designated as a major industrial builder in Norway. The weapons factory was no longer under military command, and in 1953 the Norwegian Parliament approved the largescale modernisation of the company.
This stemmed from the desire to develop a high-tech defence industry that could meet the needs of the Norwegian Armed Forces while also making a technological contribution to nato.
The establishment of the Norwegian Armed Forces Research Institute at Kjeller in 1947 was part of the same strategy. The Norwegian authorities desired for a national industrial partner for the Armed Forces that could realise the technology.
This partnership has endured from the 1950s up to the present day, leading to the development of a number of defence systems including the Penguin missile, NASAMS air defence, the underwater vehicle HUGIN and the Naval Strike Missile.
KONGSBERG’s involvement in the maritime industry began in earnest in the 1970s, coinciding with the discovery of oil in the North Sea. Companies that would later become part of KONGSBERG, such as Simrad and Norcontrol, had already been supplying echo sounders and automation systems to the fishing and merchant fleets for several decades.
Nevertheless, the 1970s was the decade in which Kongsberg weapons factory was able to find a position within both the maritime industry and the petroleum sector. Dynamic positioning and underwater installations were revolutionary forms of technology at the time.
They gave the industry at KONGSBERG a technological advantage that continues to apply today.
The year 1987 was a turning point in the company’s history. KONGSBERG weapons factory was split into separate divisions that had specific responsibility for producing car parts, aircraft parts, gas turbines, oil installations, maritime equipment, drawing machines and defence material.
Although the level of innovation was impressive, the venture was not profitable. As a result, the Government, which fully owned the company, decided to sell off all divisions apart from defence, which continued under the name Norsk Forsvarsteknologi (Norwegian Defence Technology).
It was only in 1995 that the company reclaimed the name and began operating as KONGSBERG.
Many acquisitions followed, including the reacquisition of the maritime division. In 1997, KONGSBERG brought its operations together through the subsidiaries Kongsberg Maritime AS and Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace AS.
At the turn of the century, KONGSBERG seized an opportunity when the need arose for a remotely controlled weapons solution for vehicles. KONGSBERG’s solution proved to be so effective that the US Armed Forces were soon brought on board as a major customer.
The operations were split off as a separate business area in 2008 under the name Kongsberg Protech Systems. The remaining defence operation continued under the name Kongsberg Defence Systems, which included the supply of air defence products, missiles, command and control systems, aerostructures and communication products.
KONGSBERG Oil & Gas Technologies was established in the same year. A number of Kongsberg Maritime teams that had already been working with simulation technologies relating to oil and gas were combined under the new management umbrella.
Over the course of a few years, Kongsberg Oil & Gas Technologies was expanded to include ocean floor hardware solutions, software solutions for drilling wells and decision support.
The motto for KONGSBERG’s bicentennial celebrations in 2014 was “First 200 — A World Class Journey”. The cohesion and common identity across business areas was strengthened through local events around the world.
At the same time, challenges in the offshore market began to emerge. Considerably lower levels of activity led to a need for restructuring, which enabled Kongsberg Maritime to stay profitable in more demanding times.
Kongsberg Digital was created in 2016 in response to the requirement for the digitalisation of the industry. This included parts of the oil and gas companies and the simulator business from Kongsberg Maritime.
The maritime market has been in the doldrums in recent years, but KONGSBERG has compensated by strengthening the defence side of the business. KONGSBERG now owns almost half of the Finnish defence company Patria and together with Nammo forms a strong Nordic defence constellation.
Important contracts for missiles, air defence and weapon stations have helped KONGSBERG to generate substantial growth on the defence side and secure the future of the business for the years to come.
The acquisition of Rolls-Royce Commercial Marine last year was the largest in the history of KONGSBERG and an important milestone in Norwegian maritime history.
At the start of 2019, KONGSBERG boasted a turnover of NOK 14,381 billion and around 6,800 employees in more than 25 countries. KONGSBERG now consists of three business areas: Kongsberg Maritime, Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace and Kongsberg Digital.
Want to learn more? Explore our history here.