03 Dec Cook Defence Systems wins £70m Army deal

The British Army’s tanks and armoured vehicles will be kept rolling by Cook Defence Systems (CDS) after the privately owned business secured a £70m deal with the Ministry of Defence. The County Durham-based business has landed a four-year deal to support vehicles including the Army’s Challenger II main battle tanks, Warrior armoured personnel carriers and Scimitar reconnaissance vehicles with replacement tracks.

CDS is a leading designer and manufacturer of the caterpillar tracks and running gear for armoured vehicles and the agreement will secure 110 jobs at Cook’s base in Stanhope, as well as other positions in the company’s supply chain. William Cook, General Manager, said: “Tank tracks may appear low-tech compared to drones and missiles but as armoured fighting vehicles become heavier and more powerful we have to use the latest manufacturing techniques and materials to minimise the weight and maximise the lifespan of track systems.”
Made out of steel and rubber, tracks are one of the most important parts of an armoured vehicle, giving them their ‘go anywhere’ capability. However, they wear out over time, meaning creating more durable systems makes the military more effective.
The Army also needs to hold a ready stock of spare track parts to keep their vehicles operating, making them as important as ammunition or fuel when it comes to maintaining combat readiness.

Mr Cook added: “We have a history of supplying the MoD and the performance of the business recently reflects the lack of orders from it. However, we kept investing in our products and factory and the result is this four-year contract.” The deal continues a long relationship between Cook and the MoD, with the company having supplied tracks and armour to Army since the Second World War.

“The present fragile system in Eastern Europe and the Middle East emphasises the importance of Britain maintaining a strong and independent armoured warfare capability, “Mr Cook said. “This contract secures the British Army’s strategic on-shore supply of this essential equipment.”

CDS has also designed a new track system which could be used on the Army’s new generation of Ajax vehicles which is currently being tested on pre-production models. The MoD has ordered 589 of the lightweight vehicles from US defence group General Dynamics in Britain’s biggest single vehicle purchase for three decades, worth £3.5bn. CDS is the only independent track designer in the Western world, with all its rivals either Government owned or part of larger defence groups.

Winning the deal to supply for Ajax would be a major coup for the company, thought to be worth tens of millions of pounds with the long-term supply and maintenance potential being much greater.

Production work on the Ajax is due to start in next year. The work was intended to take place in Spain but in the summer the Government awarded a £390m maintenance contract lasting until 2024 to General Dynamics, resulting in the company moving the work to South Wales, creating more than 500 jobs in the area.

(Article featured in The Telegraph 19/11/2015)

Angela Mason
Angela Mason