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, recently celebrating our 200-year anniversary, stronger than ever.
The company began its journey as Kongsberg Våpenfabrikk (Kongsberg Weapon Factory) and was founded March 20th 1814 by Poul Steenstrup. He wanted to create new jobs at a time when Kongsberg was suffering from distress and poverty due a decline in the silver mines, and Norway was still striving for independence.
Kongsberg Våpenfabrikk 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 gunsmith 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 rifle became world-famous when the United States decided to equip its soldiers with the rifle.
The Krag-Jørgensen rifle was to dominate the production at Kongsberg Våpenfabrikk until the end of the first world war in 1918.
In the start of 1918 the company also introduced production for the civil market.
Three years later, the first tools from Kongsberg Våpenfabrikk were launched on the market. These included adjustable spanners, twist drills, chisels, planes, spade handles, blades for circular saws and a range of pliers – to name but a few.
As always, these products were top quality and won the company a gold medal during the International Exposition in Barcelona in 1929.
The company's new production plans for the civil market covered much more than tools however. In the early 1920s, the company launched axle shafts and components for cars and ships, sledges with skis as runners, complete bicycles, dining room furniture, tool cabinets, irons and even a couple of prototypes for sewing machines. Whaling guns became particularly popular for export.
In the 1930s, the threat of war dominated Europe once again and Kongsberg Våpenfabrikk manufactured amongst others antiaircraft guns under license.
During the Second World War, from 1940 to 1945, Kongsberg Våpenfabrikk was controlled by the Nazi German occupants, whom were unsatisfied with the 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 Våpenfabrikk was designated as one of key companies in the rebuilding and developing of Norwegian industry and in 1953 the owner, The Norwegian Parliament, initiated a large scale modernization 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 to NATO.
The establishment of the Norwegian Armed Forces' research institute at Kjeller in 1947 was part of the 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, the HUGIN underwater vessel and the Naval Strike Missile.
In the 1970s, Kongsberg Våpenfabrikk was divided into separate divisions as they emerged with specific responsibilities to; maintain aircraft parts, produce automotive parts, develop and produce gas turbines, subsea oil installations, maritime equipment, drawing machines, CNCs and defence equipment.
Dynamic positioning and subsea installations were revolutionary technologies, which gave the city of Kongsberg a technological edge that still prevails today.
The year 1987 was a turning point in the company’s history. Although the level of innovation was high, it was not profitable. The Norwegian state, which owned all the shares, decided to sell all divisions except the defence division which continued under the name Norsk Forsvarsteknologi as.
In 1995 the company reclaim Kongsberg in the new company identity; Kongsberg Gruppen ASA (KONGSBERG). In 1997, KONGSBERG acquired Kongsberg Maritime AS which together with newly established Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace AS (formerly named Kongsberg Gruppen ASA) became two business areas.
At the turn of the century, KONGSBERG seized the opportunity when the need for a remote controlled weapon solution for vehicles arrived. KONGSBERG's solution proved effective and the U.S. defence force soon became a major customer.
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 to remain profitable even during demanding times.
In order to meet the need for digitisation of the industry, a new business area, Kongsberg Digital was established in 2016.
While the maritime market has faced both financial crisis and a down turn in crude oil prices, 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 the Norwegian company Nammo they constitute a strong Nordic defence constellation.
Important contracts for missiles, air defence systems 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 2019, was the largest in KONGSBERG’s history, as well as an important milestone in Norwegian maritime history.
KONGSBERG now 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 future: 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.