South African defence contractor Paramount showed two sides of its AHRLAC single prop pusher - literally. At its exhibit, the left half of its single prototype example was presented in its recently-announced Mwari militarised version, with the other half in civil, surveillance guise.

Paramount, which flew the aircraft on the 10min flight to Waterkloof from its nearby Wonderboom airport facility ahead of the opening day, believes there is a promising market for both variants, and - while it has not revealed any customers - is showing its faith in the programme by pressing on with the construction of a new dedicated factory at Wonderboom, able to produce around two aircraft per month initially.

Paramount, a majority shareholder in AHRLAC Holdings, which produces the twin-cockpit aircraft, first flew the AHRLAC in 2014. It is working on the second airframe, which is likely to fly early in 2017 and will be the certificated design. The principle behind the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6-powered aircraft is that a range of equipment, from sensors to a cannon, can be "plugged" into 25 separate hard points, says Paramount.

Although Boeing earlier this year agreed with Paramount to offer an advanced mission system on the militarised version, Paramount insists that both variants can be offered "completely ITAR [US International Traffic in Arms Regulations] free".

Although much of its defence business has traditionally been with African states, Paramount is pitching the AHRLAC - the first indigenously-produced mainstream manned aircraft in South Africa since the Denel Rooivalk attack helicopter - globally.

"We have produced an aircraft to the highest engineering standards, with the first world as our target," says founder and executive chairman Ivor Ichikowitz, "This will be for sale into the US, Europe and India. We have enough indication of serious intent for us to be taking these markets seriously."

He says that Paramount's advantage is that it is nimble enough to develop products much quicker than many Western defence firms. "This has been privately funded from concept to production five years. We are conducting a military-level flight test programme at a fraction of what it would cost in Europe or the US."

Source: Flight International