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NI firm part of £32m army vests deal

By Nick Webb

A military uniform manufacturer in Co Tyrone has landed part of a $49m (£32m) contract with the US Army to provide bullet-proof vests.

Hawk Protection in Fivemiletown, part of John McGuckian's Cooneen textile empire, will team up with Bethel Industries and KDH Defence Industries for the fixed-term contract.

The deal is for the Soldier Protection System modular vest, which was recently awarded by Army Contracting Command in Maryland.

It is understood that the winning group beat off four other bidders, with the contract set to be completed in early 2019.

McGuckian's Cooneen group developed specialist divisions - Cooneen Defence and Cooneen Protection - to cater for the defence and security sector.

It provided 'Tier 1 Pelvic Protective Underwear' or bomb-proof pants for the United States Army and United States Marine Corps in 2011 before landing a number of high-profile contacts. The firm also developed and produces general purpose body armour for the UK Police force, garnering an 80% market share for the product in Britain.

Cooneen did not comment on the present deal.

A sister company, Cooneen by Design, makes character bedclothes and nightwear for children. Profits for the year to November 28, 2014 at that company were £5.6m, down from £6.5m a year before, while turnover was down from £63.2m to £59m.

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