Paramount Group, South Africa’s leading private sector defence vendor, is gearing up to begin producing its lightweight aircraft platform from early 2017.
The Advanced High-Performance Reconnaissance Light Aircraft (AHRLAC) – also known as ‘Ahrlac’ – will be manufactured at a new factory under construction in Pretoria. If necessary, the facility could be expanded with additional manufacturing units, which will enable Paramount Group to roll out four Ahrlac aircraft per month.
According to Engineering News, Paramount Group successfully integrated and tested the Airbus Defence and Space (DS) Argos II electro-optical and infrared (EO/IR) sensor turret onboard the Ahrlac. In fact, it seems that the Argos II will be paired with the Ahrlac’s helmet piece, but it is unclear if this will translate into cueing with a proper helmet mounted display and sight (HMD/S) system.
Paramount Group has two firm launch customers for the Ahrlac (defenceWeb), though these users have not yet been disclosed. In March, Paramount Group and Boeing agreed to collaborate on configuring the Ahrlac into a lightweight attacker – i.e. the Mwari. Paramount Group officials informed Engineering News that the Boeing-equipped Mwari will be marketed to the U.S. as well as U.S.-allied markets in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. A parallel Mwari with non-Boeing subsystems will also be offered for other markets.
Notes & Comments:
With the popularity of the Embraer A-29 Super Tucano in various counterinsurgency (COIN) environments, the combat aircraft industry is increasingly leaning towards marketing low-cost and lightweight platforms for close air support (CAS) missions. From Latin America to Africa to even Afghanistan, the A-29 has taken the spot an industry standard, one that Paramount Group is evidently aiming to reach in the coming years.
The agreement to configure the Mwari in partnership with Boeing as well as the U.S. Air Force’s own call for a lightweight attack platform (under the OA-X requirement) has given Paramount Group an incentive to seriously commit towards the Ahrlac’s CAS and COIN mission potential.
With Boeing potentially playing a key role in the Mwari’s U.S. and U.S.-ally prospects, one could imagine Airbus DS being tapped into to provide solutions for other markets. In fact, with its partnership with Denel Group to upgrade the Rooivalk Mk 1, Airbus DS has explicitly designated the Sub-Saharan as well as North African markets as key areas for armament sales growth.
Managing cost and securing subsystems as well as guided air-to-surface munitions will likely be central considerations for Paramount Group, especially if it intends to offer a sound offering against the A-29, which has already made in-roads in Sub-Saharan Africa. Denel Dynamics would be Paramount Group’s natural – if not leading – prospective partner in this respect.