Ground Warfare

FN Herstal and John Cockerill Spearhead AI Defense Research with ULiège Partnership

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FN Herstal and John Cockerill Spearhead AI Defense Research with ULiège Partnership

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FN Herstal and John Cockerill Spearhead AI Defense Research with ULiège Partnership
FN Herstal and John Cockerill Spearhead AI Defense Research with ULiège Partnership

FN Herstal and John Cockerill have joined forces with the Walloon Region to finance a dedicated chair at ULiège focusing on artificial intelligence (AI) and defense. This innovative four-year collaboration, backed by a substantial investment of 160,000 euros per partner, aims to position both companies at the forefront of AI technology in the defense industry. The strategic significance of this project has been highlighted by Minister of the Economy Willy Borsus (MR), emphasizing the critical role that technological advancements, particularly in digitalization and AI, will play in the future of the sector. With a workforce of 12,000 people in Wallonia dependent on the defense industry, the collaboration between ULiège, FN Herstal, and John Cockerill aims to bolster industrial sovereignty in the face of evolving global security dynamics.

The imperative for sovereignty in the defense sector is evident in the current geopolitical landscape. The importance of retaining control over technology and development rather than relying on foreign sources, aligning with Wallonia’s goal of achieving industrial independence. However, it is crucial not to overlook the commercial interests at play. As AI continues to reshape industries, both John Cockerill and FN recognize the need to adapt their business models. Damien Ernst, professor at the Montefiore Institute at ULiège and head of the AI and defense chair, emphasizes that the program goes beyond strategic considerations, revealing a commercial motive. The companies aim to understand the evolving landscape and position themselves to introduce innovative products to the market at the opportune moment. The partnership offers a unique advantage in the form of intellectual freedom, allowing researchers to explore AI technologies without being bound to predefined systems.

Fabrique Nationale Herstal, trading as FN Herstal and often referred to as Fabrique Nationale, Factory National, or simply FN, is a leading firearms manufacturer based in Herstal, Belgium, and former vehicle manufacturer. Firearms designed and/or manufactured by FN include the S.A.W. M249, Browning Hi-Power and Five-seven pistols, the FAL, FNC, F2000 and SCAR rifles, the P90 submachine gun, the M2 Browning, MAG, Minimi and the FN Evolys machine guns; all have been commercially successful. FN Herstal’s firearms are used by the armed forces of over 100 countries. It was the largest exporter of military small arms in Europe as of 2012. FN Herstal is owned by the Herstal Group holding company, which is in turn owned by the regional government of Wallonia. The Herstal Group also owns the Browning Arms Company and the U.S. Repeating Arms Company (Winchester).

John Cockerill, formerly Cockerill Maintenance & Ingénierie (CMI), is a mechanical engineering group headquartered in Seraing, Belgium. It produces machinery for steel plants, industrial heat recovery equipment and boilers, as well as shunting locomotives and military equipment. In 2004, the company was renamed Cockerill Maintenance & Ingénierie (CMI),[5] then it changed back to its original name John Cockerill in May 2019. The defence sub-division’s primary products are 90mm guns and turrets for light armoured vehicles.

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