Key points Non‐muscle (NM) and smooth muscle (SM) myosin II are both expressed in smooth muscle tissues, however the role of NM myosin in SM contraction is unknown. Contractile stimulation of tracheal smooth muscle tissues stimulates phosphorylation of the NM myosin heavy chain on Ser1943 and causes NM myosin filament assembly at the SM cell cortex. Expression of a non‐phosphorylatable NM myosin mutant, NM myosin S1943A, in SM tissues inhibits ACh‐induced NM myosin filament assembly and SM contraction, and also inhibits the assembly of membrane adhesome complexes during contractile stimulation. NM myosin regulatory light chain (RLC) phosphorylation but not SM myosin RLC phosphorylation is regulated by RhoA GTPase during ACh stimulation, and NM RLC phosphorylation is required for NM myosin filament assembly and SM contraction. NM myosin II plays a critical role in airway SM contraction that is independent and distinct from the function of SM myosin. Abstract The molecular function of non‐muscle (NM) isoforms of myosin II in smooth muscle (SM) tissues and their possible role in contraction are largely unknown. We evaluated the function of NM myosin during contractile stimulation of canine tracheal SM tissues. Stimulation with ACh caused NM myosin filament assembly, as assessed by a Triton solubility assay and a proximity ligation assay aiming to measure interactions between NM myosin monomers. ACh stimulated the phosphorylation of NM myosin heavy chain on Ser1943 in tracheal SM tissues, which can regulate NM myosin IIA filament assembly in vitro. Expression of the non‐phosphorylatable mutant NM myosin S1943A in SM tissues inhibited ACh‐induced endogenous NM myosin Ser1943 phosphorylation, NM myosin filament formation, the assembly of membrane adhesome complexes and tension development. The NM myosin cross‐bridge cycling inhibitor blebbistatin suppressed adhesome complex assembly and SM contraction without inhibiting NM myosin Ser1943 phosphorylation or NM myosin filament assembly. RhoA inactivation selectively inhibited phosphorylation of the NM myosin regulatory light chain (RLC), NM myosin filament assembly and contraction, although it did not inhibit SM RLC phosphorylation. We conclude that the assembly and activation of NM myosin II is regulated during contractile stimulation of airway SM tissues by RhoA‐mediated NM myosin RLC phosphorylation and by NM myosin heavy chain Ser1943 phosphorylation. NM myosin II actomyosin cross‐bridge cycling regulates the assembly of membrane adhesome complexes that mediate the cytoskeletal processes required for tension generation. NM myosin II plays a critical role in airway SM contraction that is independent and distinct from the function of SM myosin.