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John Cockerill has established itself in Spain to offer a product that can be produced in Spain in just months. ESD had the opportunity to talk to Mark Fenwick, General Manager, John Cockerill Defense España.

John Cockerill Defense has established itself in Spain with the objective of offering its Cockerill 3000 Series modular turret system to the Spanish Armed Forces. They opened an office last year and have plans to establish an assembly line.

There are two programmes which represent opportunities for the company: the future 8×8 armoured fighting vehicle DRAGÓN for the Spanish Army; and a potential new programme to replace the M-60s vehicle of the Infantería de Marina (Marine Corps).

Mark Fenwick, Director General, John Cockerill Defense España (Photos: John Cockerill Defense España)

“We are here because we know we have a product that is compliant with the requirements set by the Spanish Army. Our Cockerill 3000 Series modular turret system offers a single turret that can accommodate 30mm, 90mm and 105mm weapon systems. It can accommodate a two-man crew or operate in unmanned mode with a conversion time of no more than 48 hours”, Mark Fenwick, General Manager of John Cockerill Defense España (part of the John Cockerill Group, formerly known as CMI), told ESD during an interview.

Rapid interchangeability of the crews and weapons, unique operational capacity, a very high level of common configuration… all of these qualities enable the Cockerill Series 3000 modular turrets to cover all missions and objectives on the battlefield, from engaging fighting tanks, bunkers or helicopters, to intervening in combats known as asymmetrical warfare, not forgetting urban conflicts.

“Currently, we are already producing the turret system at a current rhythm of one a day. It is qualified and it is delivered. It is not just a concept but a mature delivered product”, Fenwick explains. Indeed, John Cockerill Defense is already manufacturing hundreds of turrets for a contract with General Dynamics Land Systems Canada, in both medium and large calibre configurations.

Cockerill is offering the Spanish Army other advantages: “It is about economies of scale in spare parts, training and maintenance. The turret offers a commonality of up to 75% of its subsystems and spare parts. If you are looking from a military fleet point of view we have a solution that offers economies of scale, operational performance and manufacturing in Spain. If we look at the Spanish MoD’s requirements on the one hand and our products on the other, we see a match”, Fenwick emphasises.

In 2019, Cockerill signed MoUs with three Spanish partners to optimise its defence systems: Abengoa Innovación, SDLE and ITAINNOVA (Instituto Tecnológico de Aragón). “We have to take into account that Spanish MoD wants a ’made in Spain’ 8×8 vehicle with future export potential.”
Naturally the General Manager of Cockerill España is also a strong supporter of European solutions for defence programmes: “European companies are investing in new technologies and we should look inside Europe for products and solutions. From a technological point of view, using non-European technologies might be a challenge when it comes to exporting”.

At this point, we have to remember that Israeli companies Elbit Systems and Rafael were chosen to provide turrets for the Technology Evaluation programme that was launched in 2015. The programme is still running and no selection of weapon systems has been made so far with regards to the production contract. The goal is to arm the future DRAGÓN 8×8 of the Spanish Army, in the scope of a programme with an initial batch of 348 vehicles: 176 units will be armed with an unmanned turret of 30mm and 56 with a manned version. This contract is valued at €2.1Bn. Cockerill believes that the requirements for a 30mm manned and unmanned version added to a potential 105mm requirement of the Spanish Marines provide a perfect match for its Series 3000 system.
With regard to the DRAGÓN programme, on 23 December 2019, the Spanish MoD refused to accept the initial offer by General Dynamics European Land Systems-Santa Bárbara Sistemas (GDELS-SBS) to produce a first batch of 348 vehicles.

“These kinds of setbacks are quite normal in a programme like the 8×8 vehicle. They happen everywhere. You have ups and downs when you develop a programme. We believe that when our product is examined we will be given a chance. The solution needs to be mature in 2020 and operational for the next 30 years. It is not easy to choose”, Fenwick said. John Cockerill also promises a quick reaction if their Cockerill® 3000 Series modular turret system is selected by the MoD: “The production line could be set up in Spain in just a few months. A mature product, modularity and common configuration are unique characteristics which significantly optimise both total cost of ownership and the operational flexibility of our systems saving 20-22% over the life cycle of the product.