200 Years of Determination
KONGSBERG has a long and proud history – from its starting point in Norway in 1814, to the international corporation of today, KONGSBERG has been an innovative technology environment.
Through our foresight and ability to adapt, KONGSBERG has survived through changing times and markets. We recently celebrated our 200-year anniversary, stronger than ever.
KONGSBERG was founded March 20th 1814 by Poul Steenstrup. He wanted to create new jobs at a time when the city of Kongsberg was suffering from distress and poverty and Norway was still striving for independence.
Kongsberg Våpenfabrikk (Weapons Factory) started producing rifles for the Norwegian Armed Forces. Increasing deliveries throughout the 19th century lead to the big international breakthrough in 1888, when director Ole Hermann Johannes Krag and Erik Jørgensen introduced the prototype of their new rifle.
The rifle was bought by the Danish army in 1889. Three years later, the Krag-Jørgensen became world-famous when the United States decided to equip its soldiers with the rifle.
Krag-Jørgensen was to dominate the production at Kongsberg Våpenfabrikk until the end of the first world war in 1918.
Production at Kongsberg Våpenfabrikk was dominated by the Krag–Jørgensen until the end of the First World War in 1918 when the company started civilian production. The factory was granted a permit to produce civil weapons and tools, as well as components for the shipping industry and whaling fleet.
In the 1930s, the threat of war dominated Europe once again. Norwegian authorities ordered the production of air defence weapons, which came to use when Germany invaded Norway on April 9, 1940.
During the second world war from 1940 to 1945, Kongsberg Våpenfabrikk was controlled by Germany. The occupant, however, was unsatisfied with a factory unable to meet expectations due to poor access to raw materials and resistance among factory workers.
After the end of the second world war, KONGSBERG was designated as a key company in the rebuilding and developing of Norwegian industries. The weapon factory was no longer under military command, and in 1953 the Norwegian Parliament initiated a large-scale modernisation of the company.
This was motivated by the desire to build a national, high-tech defence industry that could meet the Norwegian armed forces' needs and contribute technologically to NATO.
The establishment of the Norwegian Armed Forces' research institute at Kjeller in 1947 was part of the same strategy. The Norwegian authorities wanted a national industrial partner for the Armed Forces to realise the technology.
From the 1950s to the present, this collaboration has resulted in a number of defence systems such as the Penguin missile, NASAMS air defence, the HUGIN underwater vessel and the Naval Strike Missile.
The maritime part of KONGSBERG’s history started taking more space in the 1970s, during the same period as oil was discovered in the North Sea. Companies that would later become part of KONGSBERG, such as Simrad and Norcontrol, had already provided echosounders and automation systems to the fishing and merchant fleet for several decades.
The 1970s became the decade when Kongsberg Våpenfabrikk took positioning in both the maritime industry and the petroleum sector.
Dynamic positioning and subsea installations were revolutionary technologies, which gave KONGSBERG a technological edge that still prevails today.
The year 1987 was a turning point in the company’s history. Kongsberg Våpenfabrikk was split into separate divisions with specific responsibilities within automotive parts, aircraft parts, gas turbines, oil installations, maritime equipment, drawing machines and defence materials.
Although the level of innovation was high, it was not profitable. The Norwegian state, which owned all the shares, decided to sell everything except the defence division which continued under the name Norsk Forsvarsteknologi.
In 1995 the company reclaimed the name and started to operate as KONGSBERG. This resulted in a number of acquisitions, where, among other initiatives, the maritime division was bought back. In 1997, KONGSBERG acquired the business of the subsidiaries Kongsberg Maritime AS and Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace AS.
At the turn of the century, KONGSBERG seized the opportunity when the need for a remote-controlled weapons solution for vehicles arrived. KONGSBERG's solution proved to be so effective that the American defence forces soon became a major customer.
In 2008, the remote-controlled weapons business was establised as a separate business area under the name Kongsberg Protech Systems. The remaining defence activities continued under the name of Kongsberg Defence Systems, including the supply of air defence, missiles, command and control systems, aircraft parts and communication.
Kongsberg Oil & Gas Technologies was established the same year. Talent from Kongsberg Maritime, who had worked with simulation technology in the oil and gas industry, was reorganised under new management.
Over the course of a few years, Kongsberg Oil & Gas Technologies expanded its business to include hardware solutions on the seabed, software solutions for drilling wells and decision support.
The motto of KONGSBERG's celebration in 2014 was "First 200 - A World Class Journey". Cohesion and common identity across business areas were strengthened through local celebrations around the globe.
At the same time, the challenges in the offshore market began to emerge. Substantially lower activity led to the need for restructuring. This allowed Kongsberg Maritime to remain profitable even during demanding times.
In order to meet the need for digitisation of the industry, Kongsberg Digital was established in 2016, including parts of the oil and gas business as well as the simulator activities from Kongsberg Maritime.
While the maritime market has been struggling, KONGSBERG has strengthened its position in the defence industry in recent years. KONGSBERG currently owns almost half of the Finnish defence company Patria, and together with Nammo they constitute a strong Nordic defence constellation.
Important contracts for missiles, air defence and weapons stations have secured KONGSBERG’s significant growth on the defence side in the years to come.
The acquisition of Rolls-Royce Commercial Marine, announced in 2018, was the largest in KONGSBERG’s history, as well as an important milestone in Norwegian maritime history.
The KONGSBERG technology cluster started to grow in the 1950s, after the Norwegian Parliament approved a comprehensive modernisation of the company. As new technology was developed and became industrialised, a set of industrial partners, large and small, began to flourish in and around Kongsberg.
Today KONGSBERG has approximately 2,500 industrial partners all over the world. A large portion of our extensive product development is done in close cooperation with these partners as well as our demanding customers.
KONGSBERG is here to stay: The character of our business today, with large investments, and long-term contracts and projects, requires long-term business perspectives. Our history proves our determination to continue to deliver and develop state-of-the-art technology.