By Paolo Valpolini
Recently renamed John Cockerill, the Belgian company specialised in turrets was present at Expodefensa to support its marketing action in Colombia that aims not only at land opportunities but also at naval ones, especially in the riverine domain.
“Our first target is the upgrade of the Textron Commando vehicles in service with the National Colombian Army cavalry,” Sylvain Rolet, Vice President Sales and Marketing tells EDR On-Line. The need is to increase the vehicles firepower, installing a medium calibre turret that will replace the current one, armed with a 12.7 mm machine gun and a 40 mm automatic grenade launcher. John Cockerill is proposing its CPWS (Cockerill Protected Weapon Station) armed with the Northrop Grumman MK242 Bushmaster cannon firing 25×137 mm NATO ammunition, which effective range allows engaging opponents, mostly narcos and guerrillas, at greater distances, the current threat adopting longer range weapons such as sniper rifles. The requirements include a fully gyrostabilised commander’s periscope capable to cover 360°, the capacity of recording images, as well as target tracking, a capacity that will be added to the CPWS. “We strongly pushed for the choice of the 25 mm cannon for more than one reason, its reliability, the fact that it is a calibre in service with NATO (in 2018 Colombia acquired the status of NATO “partner across the globe”, the only Latin American country to do so until now), that it is widely combat proven, and that it has a dual-feed capability allowing flexibility in combat,” Mr. Rolet adds. The weapon can be reloaded from inside the vehicle, 155 rounds of two different types being available. The gunner will have a screen and a joystick at his disposal, the vehicle commander, located on the right and with a good situational awareness thanks to the direct view provided by armoured transparents, will also be equipped with a screen to monitor the gunner’s engagements, but will probably also have a joystick to allow him to take control of the turret should the need arise.
According to Mr. Rolet the current RfP should probably be only the first one, Colombia being in the need of replacing part of its ageing fleet of wheeled armoured vehicles. Textron 4×4 might be the choice in order to standardise the fleet, and in that case the contract might come from the US OEM that would provide the vehicles to the US Government as part of the Foreign Military Sales process. This possibility is however considered at mid term.
Another potential land market is that of the upgrade of the Colombian fleet of M113 tracked armoured personnel carriers. “We are trying to convince the infantry to buy the same turret of the cavalry,” Rolet says. Such a move would definitely increase the effectiveness of the M113s, however how that programme will evolve is still difficult to say. As for Gladiators 8×8, the Colombian definition of GDLS Piranha III, the addition of the 1.2 tonnes CPWS might considerably hamper mobility.
“Leaving land, we are also proposing our CPWS for riverine forces, and we are talking to COTECMAR on that subject,” Sylvain Rolet explains, comparing the move to that mad with Pindad for the TankBoat provided to Indonesian forces. The number and length of main rivers requires patrolling them, and this is definitely not only a Colombian problem. Ecuador has shown interest in the John Cockerill CPWS, the system allowing patrolling at night, thanks to its optronic package that includes a thermal imager beside a video camera and a laser rangefinder. To acquire full night patrol capability Ecuador will also need to fit its riverine boats with some form of armour.
In all those potential contracts John Cockerill is offering a full portfolio of technical cooperation with local companies, a key element in order to cope with a fierce competition.
Photos by Paolo Valpolini