Could the AHRLAC usher in a new era for South African aviation?

I’m off to South Africa in September for the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) show. In recent years, the country has not been particularly active militarily–unlike how it was under the previous apartheid regime.gripenSAAF.jpgMostly, South Africa participates in peacekeeping operations around the rest of the continent such in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi and Lesotho. But the country is the largest economy in the African continent–and it is an emerging market. Perhaps most importantly, it’s where Charlize Theron comes from.

Charlize_Theron2.jpgSouth Africa does have a significant defense industry–it has excelled at developing ground vehicles. The country developed the RG-31 Nyala, which evolved into one of the US Army’s MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected) variants, the G6 self-propelled howitzer, and the Rooikat 76 armored fighting vehicle.

10.jpgBut they have not had as much success in building their own indigenous aircraft. Atlas Aviation, before it was absorbed into what is now Denel, built a number of different derivatives of western European aircraft. These included the Impala–a copy of the Aermacchi MB-326 trainer, Cheetah–a copy of the Dassault Mirage III and the Oyrx helicopter–based on the Aerospatiale Puma.

-SAAF-Cheetah_01.jpgTheir most recent effort was the Denel Rooivalk attack helicopter. While a lot of the work was indigenous, ultimately it was derived from the Aérospatiale Alouette III and Super Puma helicopters. So far 12 have been built. The first aircraft was handed over in April 2011, but the helicopter has been in development since the mid-1980s.

Rooivalk.jpgBut a private development led by the Paramount Group and Aerosud could change all that. The two companies are developing a new light turboprop combat aircraft designed for “homeland security” missions called the AHRLAC for “Advanced High‐performance Reconnaissance and Surveillance Aircraft.”

phoca_thumb_l_ahlrac_1.jpgThe two-seat aircraft will have a maximum takeoff weight of about 8377lbs and payload of 1760 lbs. It will be powered by a Pratt & Whitney 950 shp PT6A-66 engine and should be able to hit a maximum speed of 272 knots. The manufacturer claims the aircraft has a range greater than 1100 nautical miles–which is impressive–and an endurance of 7.5 hours.

phoca_thumb_l_group-photo_hanger_edited.jpgThe AHRLAC is being designed to operate out of semi‐prepared strips and is being optimized for multiple missions according to the manufacturers. For example, the aircraft could be used for border security, coastal patrols or peacekeeping operations. Sensor payloads could include electro-optical infrared cameras, synthetic aperture radar, communications or electronic intelligence sensors.

AHRLAC2.jpgParamount and Aerosud list these as the aircraft’s potential mission areas:

Peace Keeping & Emergency Relief 

Policing, Border Control, Drug Control 


Forward Air Control 

COIN Operations 

Electronic Surveillance – ELINT/COMINT 

Maritime, Coastal & Fisheries Patrol – EEZ Patrol 

Forward Air Supply 

Training and Advanced Training 

Armed Patrol, Escort and Light Attackahrlac_desert.jpg


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