Cook Defence Systems on track to support Ukraine

Posted on 27 Feb 2024 by The Manufacturer

Independent British manufacturing excellence and ingenuity are helping Ukraine defend itself from Russian aggression.

On behalf of the UK and the UK-administered International Fund for Ukraine (IFU), Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) has awarded multiple contracts to Cook Defence Systems (CDS), a world leading designer and manufacturer of tank tracks, to supply spares for up to 500 Ukrainian armoured vehicles.

The IFU contract was part of the over £100m maintenance & manoeuvre support package announced in October 2023.

In addition to supplying tracks for vehicles donated by the UK to Ukraine, including Challenger 2 main battle tanks, CDS has also been tasked with manufacturing tracks for the Soviet-era vehicles used by a large part of the Ukrainian Army.

CDS, a family-owned business based in North East England which can trace its roots back to the 1840s, has been a defence supplier since the Second World War.

CDS Managing Director William Cook said: “We have a long history of supplying tracks for all the armoured vehicles of the British Army and many allied militaries, but delivering these contracts for Ukraine has been a very different challenge.

“We have had to reverse-engineer Soviet-era equipment using limited reference material and a lot of our own know-how, while working with the manufacturing processes and materials available to us rather than the original Russian ones.

“We are doing all this with an urgency unknown in peacetime. We know there are Ukrainian soldiers on the frontline whose lives depend on what we do.”

To reverse-engineer new tracks compatible with the Soviet-era vehicles, the experts at Cook Defence Systems had to rely on museum pieces, Cold War reference documents and technical experts on armoured vehicles.

Although some of the vehicles supported by Cook Defence Systems are Soviet designed, the manufacturing techniques used by the company are anything but. They include laser scanning and digital x-ray inspection, with much of the physical production work performed by robots.

William Cook continued: “One of the biggest challenges has been almost doubling our output. We have reconfigured production lines and recruited new people wherever possible. Everyone is working exceptionally hard, but we are incredibly proud to be making a difference.”

As a result of the contract award Cook Defence Systems has already recruited 15 new people and is currently hiring for more.

Maj Gen Anna-Lee Reilly, Director of the Operations Directorate at DE&S, said: “What Cook Defence has achieved is a perfect example of British manufacturing excellence and ingenuity combined with a ‘can do’ approach to problem solving.

“The company has applied their proven manufacturing expertise and combined it with creativity to find a solution which delivers a huge benefit to Ukraine.”

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