War Profiteer of the Month: CMI Defence

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CMI Defences "tank boat" - a catamaran with a large turret, exhibited indoors at a trade show. The boat is painted in brown camoflage patterns.

CMI (“Cockerill Maintenance & Ingénierie”) Defence is a Belgian company, building a wide range of artillery systems for light and medium armoured vehicles, as well as related services and training, including simulation systems, maintenance and repair, and upgrades, marketed on the “American continent, South-East Asia, Africa and the Middle East” (2016 CMI Annual Report, PDF). CMI Defence is a section of CMI Group, a 200 year old mechanical engineering company. CMI were listed by SIPRI as among the top 100 largest arms companies in 2015 (a big jump from their position at 134 in 2014), with $660 million worth of arms sales accounting for 45% of their business. The company regularly exhibits at a large number of arms fairs around the world, including Eurosatory in France, IDEX in Abu Dhabi, and DSEI in London.

At Eurosatory in 2016, the company exhibited the world’s first drone integration directly into a weapons system. Cockerill have adapted the control systems of the Spy’Ranger drone (built by Thales) to allow the soldier operating the Cockerill 3105HP turret to directly operate the drone “see ahead” and find targets.

In their annual report for 2016, the company reported it had “begun its collaboration with the American Army on the development of a new generation turret” and has been on a product called “TankBoat” which involved putting a 105mm turret on a catamaran. TankBoat was exhibited at the IndoDefence arms fair in Indonesia.

Arming Saudi Arabia

CMI Defence is involved in a huge arms deal between General Dynamics in Canada and Saudi Arabia. The $15 billion deal was initially described by the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as simply for “jeeps”, but it has since become clear that the contract included “heavy assault” vehicles armed with turrets supplied from CMI Defence. In 2016 the contract was described by local journalists in Belgium as “the contract of the century” for the company, worth €3.2-billion, and would last for 15 years. The company has bought a military base in France to be used as a training ground; members of the Saudi military started using simulators and a live firing range in 2017.

 

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