PICTURE: South African firms unveil indigenous light-attack aircraft

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South Africa's Aerosud and Paramount Group have unveiled a new aircraft intended to satisfy a variety of civilian and military requirements, up to flying light-attack and counter-insurgency missions.

Revealed at an Aerosud site on the Centurion Aerospace Village near Pretoria on 27 September, the advanced high-performance reconnaissance light aircraft (AHRLAC) is a short take-off and landing (STOL) platform with a two-person crew, 7-10h endurance and a maximum payload of 800kg (1,760lb).

Powered by a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6 pusher engine, the high-wing design is intended to perform duties ranging from intelligence and surveillance tasks to armed patrol and counter-insurgency operations.

ahrlac, aerosud

 © Paramount Group

Other applications could include supporting border and coastal patrol activities and anti-smuggling operations, to policing and disaster relief duties, its developers said.

"AHRLAC is capable of rapid deployment and fast response times with high cruise and dash speed and extended range," said Aerosud managing director Dr Paul Potgieter.

Maximum cruise speed is cited as 300kt (555km/h), with an operating range of 2,130km (1,150nm) using internal fuel.

Its STOL performance will enable the aircraft's take-off in only 1,800ft (550m) with a full payload, including from a semi-prepared strip.

For armed applications, weapon options could include a 20mm cannon, unguided rocket pods, air-to-surface weapons and even beyond visual-range air-to-air missiles using up to six under-wing hardpoints, the companies said. Such combat use could also see the aircraft gain countermeasures equipment and also, potentially, ejection seats.

The partners unveiled a full-scale concept development model and cockpit layout model, and said an experimental development model has also been produced to support windtunnel testing.

If advanced to production, the aircraft will be manufactured at Aerosud sites in and around the Centurion Aerospace Village. The company and Paramount have forecast sales of the type could generate annual revenues of up to 4 billion rand ($500 million).

Paramount executive chairman Ivor Ichikowitz said the AHRLAC concept offers a viable alternative to the use of unmanned air vehicles, because of their reliance on expensive subsystems. "We believe that the pilot remains core to conducting effective air operations," he said.

"AHRLAC addresses the limitations of pilotless aircraft in a package which is flexible, reliable and offers excellent value for money. AHRLAC can go places and deliver missions, both civil and military, which a UAV simply cannot."