South Africa's AHRLAC draws numerous potential buyers

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South Africa's newly unveiled advanced high-performance reconnaissance light aircraft (AHRLAC) design has already attracted significant market interest, according to its main industrial backer.

Paramount Group executive chairman Ivor Ichikowitz told Flightglobal that negotiations are already underway with several air forces in Africa, eastern Europe, Latin America and the Middle East, with further interest also coming from other European nations. "The real interest is from the developed, first-world markets," he said.

Early demand is being placed mostly on the proposed high-end, armed version of the aircraft, but there is also interest in its more civilian-standard surveillance guise, he said.

 

© Paramount Group

 

Capable of carrying multiple payload types in a rapidly exchangeable, below-fuselage pod, the AHRLAC is being pitched for a variety of military, parapublic and civilian applications. "Customers like the idea of one aircraft with many missions," Ichikowitz said.

A full-scale concept development model was revealed at Aerosud's innovation centre near Pretoria in South Africa on 27 September, with a first prototype due to make its flight debut in the second quarter of 2012. Production work on its twin tail boom has recently been completed, and the cockpit layout has also been almost finalised. This includes hands-on throttle and stick controls and the use of glass cockpit avionics (concept model pictured below).

 

 

"We are using an innovative manufacturing model, where we will move straight from design to full production," said Ichikowitz. "This is a market-driven project, and our objective is to get to the market as quickly as possible."

Deliveries could start within the next 24 months, with Paramount and its technical partner Aerosud having drawn up a production model capable of completing between two and three aircraft per month. However, according to Ichikowitz, "the market demand is potentially significantly in excess of that".

The current design uses a mainly metallic structure, with limited use of composite content. However, this could be increased later in the programme under an already-identified upgrade path.

Ichikowitz also revealed that plans to develop a jet-powered version of the AHRLAC could be advanced to the prototype stage within the next two years. The first model to fly will use a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A turboprop.

Concept images of the AHRLAC show it carrying Denel Dynamics-developed Mokopa air-to-surface missiles, pod-housed unguided rockets and a nose-mounted 20mm cannon, but Ichikowitz said Paramount is also looking to potentially collaborate with other suppliers from around the world for armed applications.