Two years ago John Cockerill Defence unveiled at the World Defense Show a concept car, the Cockerill i-X, based on a chassis derived from that of a car participating in the Dakar rally. Two days later that vehicle has undergone thorough testing and has become a mature prototype
“What we showed back in March 2022, was basically a concept that had done some driving, but it never been able to fire,” Simon Haye, Chief Marketing Officer at John Cockerill Defence tells EDR On-Line, “but since then we fired an awful lot of ammunition.”
First firing trials were performed in September-October of 2022 in Belgium. “We did initial static firings, that went very well under all aspects, functional as well as aiming, then in the spring of 2023, with the agreement of the French Army STAT, the Army Technical Service, we were able to do our first firing on the move at the Suippes firing range.” Here too the vehicle obtained very good results according to the company, these tests also including firing on the move against moving targets. As a result of that, the French Army asked to do a further assessment, and this time French Army personnel used the system. The Cockerill i-X prototype went to Canjuers, in the south of France, in October 2023. Here it fired on the move at 120 km/h against moving targets with excellent results, proving that it was possible to stabilize a 25 mm weapon on a vehicle that weighs less than four tonnes. “I don’t know if there’s a world record for firing on the move in a stabilized environment, but I don’t think there are many military vehicles that can do it while moving at 120 km/h,” Simon Haye said.
In that same 10-day session at Canjuers the vehicle did a lot of mobility tests, mostly cross country driving and the vehicle, performing very well, and feedback from the French Army were very positive in terms of concept.
“Following those tests we did very little changing. The weapon system and the firing proved to be pretty reliable, and I don’t think we changed anything at all. As we took what was already on a turret there was not much to invent. The mechanism to bring the gun up was new, but it was relatively simple. As for the chassis, we’ve made some improvements to suspensions and brakes to obtain better performances, but let’s remember that the baseline was a commercial off the shelf platform,” Simon Haye underlines
The next step is to get to a production-ready vehicle, and to do so the company considers an 18-24 months timeframe. “To do that, we have to go through all typical environmental testing, the vehicle having performed only in Europe for the time being. Although the concept was Middle Eastern, we haven’t been out here yet to do testing. Weapon components were in Kuwait last summer, so in fact we’ve tested them. As for the mobility side, we have to get to a production-type of mobility solution, as the type of vehicle it’s coming from is mostly a one off, not an industrialized system.,” Simon Haye explained, The design concept and the spaceframe design will stay the same, John Cockerill Defence being currently working on protection. “We must improve anti mine protection, and we have designs in process for that. And then there is the whole drive train solution. In Europe and in the Middle East there are people who have much more experienced than we do, and we will find a solution for that,” he said, living open various options, the more than rumoured acquisition of Arquus being one of them. “Today we’re not at a phase where we can let this loose in Middle Eastern desert for a month without a support team. We need to get to a more robust design and production-ready vehicle to do so. And for this we need some external financing,” Simon Haye explains.
According to John Cockerill Defence numerous Middle Eastern countries expressed their interest, and next month the only Cockerill i-X prototype will be exhibited at DIMDEX in Qatar. “We also had a resounding interest from Special Forces, also in Europe,” the company head of said.
EDR On-Line understood that the next step will be made once John Cockerill will have a partner on board. That said on a smaller scale the company got good financing from the Waloon regional government; “They financed the development of some of the new technologies we’re putting in the vehicle, such as the new helmet just that not only provides excellent situational awareness, but also allows to operate the system from the helmet rather than from a joystick or a touch screen.” At DSEI London John Cockerill exhibited a basic version of that system, but it is looking aiming at demonstrating a much better version next June at Eurosatory. See you in Paris.
Photos courtesy John Cockerill Defence