How are the weapons systems manufactured by John Cockerill Defense adapted to the conditions of today’s military operations?

Simon Haye: John Cockerill Defense designs, manufactures, integrates and upgrades gun turrets from 25mm to 120mm calibres. Our weapons systems combine superior firepower with lightweight design, guaranteeing performance and protection on the one hand, and air transportability on the other. Our products are designed with military personnel in mind and we continually strive to cater for the evolving needs of today’s land armies.

Our teams are firmly committed to the development of innovative, technologybased military solutions, particularly in the modularity of weapons systems, their situational awareness and indirect firing capabilities. We are also enhancing our products’ ability to integrate data received from drones, the development of simulation solutions, and the integration of anti-tank missiles. The use of light and robust composite materials is a continuing theme in our design processes.

You have recently changed your name from Cockerill Maintenance and Ingenierie. What was behind this decision?

In 2017, we celebrated the 200th anniversary of the original company that was founded by John Cockerill. John was a world leader in facilitating vertically integrated, innovative companies during the industrial revolution. Our group headquarters is located at the chateau that John and his brother purchased in 1815, and a statue of him resides in the building. He was a humanitarian, initiating a number of policies that greatly assisted workers. Our guns and turrets have been frequently referred to as ‘Cockerill guns and turrets’ and, for many users, the name is a reflection of commitment to quality and expertise in large calibre cannons.

The Cockerill 3000 series is proving popular at the moment. What is it about this product that makes it so attractive to your clients?

For one of our customers, we have been producing over 20 turrets a month for the 3000 tank series. Designed to be a modular turret, it’s capable of implementing a 25mm cannon all the way up to the 105mm cannon. What’s more, while the 3000 series is mainly known for housing 30mm and 40mm MK44S solutions, and the 105mm assault gun, 35mm, 50mm and 90mm cannons are also compatible.

To suit clients’ demands, we have provided four different turret types. One of these is the 3030 Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC), which is an unmanned solution; while the 3030 Fighting Support Vehicle (FSV) is a manned turret. The two other options we supplied are the Anti-Tank (AT) turret, which is a manned 30mm with ATGM capability; and the Assault Gun (AG) or 3105; which houses the 105mm Cockerill high-pressure cannon. The beauty of the modularity is that even between diverse configurations, 70% of the components are the same, so spare parts on the APC turret can be used in the assault gun and vice versa. This offers a cost-effective solution as you have a base set of tools. The workforce, therefore, can all be easily trained and you can reduce the number of spares necessary.

What other military projects are you currently working on?

We are currently working with PT Pindad in South East Asia, integrating 90mm turrets into Badak 6×6 vehicles.

Last year, we successfully completed the development and qualification of the Harimau (Black Tiger), a medium-sized tank. Pindad are also looking to put 105mm cannons onto Pandur II vehicles and we are overseeing that process.

We have also fired our first-generation CPWS from the Oshkosh M-ATV at the ATK User’s Conference in Arizona, and we expect the 2.0 prototype to start trials in the fall of this year. This will enable LAV types of firepower to be used in 4×4 vehicles. It’s a big step up in terms of capability, with loading under armour and high angle deflection capabilities.

Customers are seeing the value in our flexible solutions as they can alter their firepower depending on the threats they are facing. Not all of these are quick changes, but we can go from 30mm to 40mm in an hour. Usually, changing from 30mm or 40mm to a 105mm assault gun configuration requires two days’ worth of labour to reconfigure, reload and test.

What is driving the market towards light and medium tanks?

Cost and weight – after all, very few vehicles can mount a 120mm smooth bore cannon. The 120mm is a tank killer, but it is designed to be used in a tank rather than stand-alone artillery pieces. These weapons are normally 55t or more, with most modern tanks sitting in the 65-70t range.

Not all locations have the infrastructure to support that kind of weight. Moreover, if you mount the 120mm in another type of vehicle, there is normally very little room for the additional ammunition.

In addition, the cost of the ammunition is cheaper with the 105mm model. These factors make the 105mm an ideal weapon to complete a widely flexible effects system on the battlefield, as shown by the US Army in its Mobile Protected Firepower programme.

Globally, there are eight to 10 different programmes currently developing systems for fielding 105mm systems, both wheeled and tracked.

Currently we are the only western company producing a 105mm turret, something we are immensely proud of. That gives us a head start in terms of capability.