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Despite the spectacular expansion of the public sector of the Chilean defense industry since the mid-1970s, the privately owned Cardoen Industries (Industrias Cardoen), owned by Carlos Cardoen Cornejo, was the most successful Chilean defense manufacturer in the export field. In less than eight years, this firm developed from a modest operation manufacturing demolition charges for the mining industry into a diversified industrial empire. In the early 1990s, it employed more than 800 persons in six separate factory complexes producing a variety of defense equipment, together with nondefense-related products, and had subsidiaries in Ecuador, Italy, Spain, and Greece. Under a 1989 agreement with the Guatemalan government, Cardoen Industries agreed to establish a plant for the manufacture of explosives, grenades, and mines in Guatemala.
In 1979 Cardoen Industries took over the project of rebuilding the Chilean Army's World War II-vintage M-3A1 half-track APCs, which Famae had commenced five years earlier but had been forced to drop for lack of funds. This venture resulted in the development of an entirely new vehicle, the BMS-1 Alacran, a number of which were acquired by the Chilean Army.
Building on the experience gained in the Alacran project, the Cardoen company commenced the assembly, under license, of the Swiss Mowag Piranha 6x6 APC in the early 1980s. In 1993 there were 180 of these in service with the Chilean Army as the Cardoen/Mowag Piranha. Several variants of this vehicle, including a mortar carrier and a fire-support version, with the turret-mounted 90mm Cockerill gun, were also developed.
Simultaneously with the Piranha project, Cardoen Industries also developed the VTP-1 Orca 6x6 APC/armored load carrier, the world's largest vehicle of its kind, capable of carrying sixteen men with their equipment. The Chilean Army eventually ordered 100 Orcas. Limited numbers of another tracked infantry vehicle, the VTP-2 4x4 Escarabajo light APC, were in service with the FACh for airfield defense. With Chinese collaboration, the company also produced a 6x6 all-terrain truck for both civilian and military purposes and a light two-seater hovercraft.
In keeping with its origins as a manufacturer of explosives, Cardoen produces three types of demolition charges and a series of detonators and Bangalore torpedoes, in addition to three types of hand grenades, two types of antipersonnel mines, and an antitank mine. The company also produces 70mm ballistic rockets, 300- kilogram fragmentation bombs, and three types of general-purpose aircraft bombs. Experiments with fuel-air bombs were reported to have been carried out at the corporation's testing area in the Atacama Desert.
The most successful of all Cardoen products, however, and one used extensively by Iraq against coalition forces in the Persian Gulf War of January-February 1991, is the patented Cardoen cluster bomb, a 227-kilogram bomb whose 240 "bomblets" create a lethal zone of up to 50,000 square meters. The company reportedly sold more than US$200 million worth of cluster bombs to Iraq between 1984 and 1988 and was described in early 1991 as the world's leading producer of this type of bomb.
Cardoen Industries has also developed a low-cost combat helicopter, based on the Bell 206. A demilitarized version of this gained a United States Federal Aviation Administration license in 1990. Nevertheless, in 1992 the prototype remained impounded in the United States on the grounds of the company's known involvement with Iraq, and Cardoen's contract to service Bell helicopters was revoked.
In early 1992, Cardoen Industries and its various subsidiaries were finding the previously close association with Iraq, particularly the illegal export of zirconium for use in armorpiercing cluster bombs, highly embarrassing in the wake of the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Consequently, the company was assiduously emphasizing its nonmilitary activities at the expense of the defense sector, on which the prosperity of Cardoen Industries had been built. Following a two-year investigation of Carlos Cardoen, United States officials brought civil charges against him and moved to confiscate Cardoen-owned properties in Florida valued at more than US$30 million. These problems prompted Cardoen Industries to change its name to Metalnor.
Data as of March 1994
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