IDEX 2023: John Cockerill and Nimr team up on Cockerill i-X

Paolo Valpolini

Launched in March 2022 at the World Defense Show in Riyad the Cockerill i-X was once again on the scene at IDEX 2023 as at the Abu Dhabi exhibition John Cockerill and Nimr signed a Teaming Agreement to jointly explore opportunities for the development and marketing of that vehicle.

As soon as the prototype vehicle was back to Belgium from Saudi Arabia, the company started mobility trials that involved high speed driving on highways, movement on forest tracks, and missions on military areas with heavy cross-country. Besides aiming at verify the chassis capacities, John Cockerill aimed at verifying and validating the stability of the turret sighting system in the most difficult situations.

The chassis successfully overcame all situations, however some fine tuning was made to obtain a better vehicle handling. The suspensions travel was increased, the progressive damping system ensuring good stability along the whole excursion. The Cockerill i-X prototype covered over 2,000 km.

The lack of rain, which increased the risk of bush fires in training area, delayed the first firings to September. Since the Cockerill i-X fired around 1,500 25 mm rounds with the main gun and a similar amount of ammunition with the 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun, showing very good accuracy according to company sources. Firing was carried out static and on the move, while no firing at high elevation angles could be done as this requires specific training areas that were not available.

While the interest in the vehicle, dubbed “The Interceptor” for it considerable maximum speed, 190 km/h, and for its firepower, a 25 mm cannon, was increasing, Nimr, the UAE company involved since long time in armoured vehicles production and part of the EDGE Group, also started talks with John Cockerill, and in October 2022 a demonstration was organised in Belgium for the Emirati company. The vehicle impressed Nimr representatives, and this led to the signature of the agreement.

“We at John Cockerill are enthusiastic to begin working with NIMR. They have shown themselves to be fully committed to the development and production of combat-proven military vehicles. Our joint knowledge and experience will enable us to make the Cockerill i-X the weapon system of the future that will best meet the needs of international armed forces,” Thierry Renaudin, CEO of John Cockerill Defense, said at the signature ceremony.

Company sources told EDR On-Line that Nimr, which is producing numerous models such as the combat proven Jais 4×4 and the new generation Ajban Mk2 and Hafeet Mk2, has not only good production lines but also good test facilities, its experience in the automotive field being well established, while John Cokerill expertise in the lethality package, namely the turret.

Abri du Plessis, CEO of NIMR, said: “The Cockerill i-X has performed exceptionally well in a series of trials and tests, demonstrating high speeds on and off-road and technologically-advanced weapon systems. Fostering strategic partnerships is a core priority for EDGE and NIMR, and negotiations will continue to iron out a potential joint venture arrangement in due course.”

Tests with the Belgian Army led to some considerations on internal space in order to fit in all personal equipment. EDR On-Line understood that an effort to increase the available protected space will be done, however for longer missions a trailer might be the solution, a towing hook being thus added to the vehicle. The trailer will allow transporting the equipment close to the forward staging, then the trailer would be dropped the mission being carried out with the Cockerill i-X at its maximum capabilities.

The vehicle development has not stopped. Antitank and other specialised versions are being studied, while a helmet mounted viewer providing a virtual vision to the driver is being considered to improve the handling.

In the mean time interest for the Cockerill i-X is growing, not only in the Middle East, as according to information acquired also some Special Forces units from first tier nations are keen to test the vehicle originated by John Cockerill, now partnered with Nimr.

Photo courtesy P. Valpolini