A South African-designed light attack and reconnaissance aircraft is nearing first delivery to an unnamed customer as the factory ramps up to full-rate production, manufacturer Paramount says.

“We have made tremendous progress in the last few months to take AHRLAC into production at our new facility in South Africa,” says Ivor Ichikowitz, Paramount founder. “This is a very exciting time for us, our partners and customers who are anticipating the arrival of the aircraft and its unique capabilities on the global market.”

The AHRLAC, also called the Mwarai in a militarised configuration, represents the first purely African-designed combat aircraft in history, Paramount says.

With a flight-hour cost projected to be less than $1,000, the light attack and surveillance platform is designed to cater to customers with smaller budgets and less infrastructure than found in most Western militaries.

Paramount has “more than one launch customer” for the AHRLAC with first delivery scheduled in the first half of this year, the company says.

Meanwhile, production is ramping up at Paramount’s vertically integrated factory at the Wonderboom airport north of Pretoria. Paramount imports the aircraft’s aluminium sheet metal and Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6 engines, but sources the majority of the other parts for the AHRLAC internally. The factory is equipped with 3D printers, which make titanium components, Paramount says.

The AHRLAC strikes a unique profile as a twin-boomed, two-seat aircraft with a forward-swept wing.

Paramount and Aerosud teamed up to launch the concept in 2011, eyeing mainly the export market for a low-cost light attack and surveillance platform. In 2015, Paramount announced a partnership with Boeing, with the latter agreed to develop a mission system to manage the weapons and sensors for certain customers. Paramount offers its own version of the mission system for other Mwari customers.

An experimental prototype dubbed the XDM has logged more than 300 flight hours since 2014. The company originally planned to build a more advanced prototype called the ADM. But the XDM’s “uncanny reliability” persuaded Paramount to skip that step. The production-ready PDM became the second AHRLAC aircraft to enter flight testing on 14 July last year, Paramount says.

The PDM aircraft features several changes from the XDM, including the addition of a retractable landing gear, Martin-Baker MB.17 ejection seats and a lighter, 8g-rated aluminium airframe. The PDM also includes a revised cockpit canopy and an onboard oxygen generation system (OBOGS), Paramount says.

Source: FlightGlobal.com