South African defense company Paramount reported on August 13 the first flight of its Advanced High-performance Reconnaissance Light Air Craft (AHRLAC). The twin-boom, tandem-seat, pusher-prop design, powered by a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-66B turboprop, has been under development since September 2011. It flew from Wonderboom airbase and will be followed into the air by a second prototype for mission systems and weapons testing.
Paramount said that thanks to its pod system design, the AHRLAC can perform tasks that “previously required four separately configured aircraft…or complex unmanned aerial surveillance systems.” The tasks include close air support, cargo transport, training and surveillance.
As well as Pratt & Whitney Canada, Cobham and Zeiss are key suppliers to the project. Martin-Baker’s lightweight Mk 17 ejection seats will be fitted. But Paramount emphasizes that the AHRLAC is an all-African design. “Leading-edge defense solutions like AHRLAC present African states with the opportunity to build up their own intelligence, militaries and national police to combat the continent’s insurgents and extremists,” said Paramount Group executive chairman Ivor Ichikowitz. In 2010, this South African industrialist separately created the Ichikowitz Family Foundation to foster various environmental and educational causes in Africa.
Dr. Paul Potgieter, CEO of AHRLAC Holdings, noted that the aircraft was assembled from computer-designed, pre-drilled and machine-made parts, without the need for jigs. “We have made all the tools for production for all sheet-metal pressings and composite parts so it enables us to hit production much more quickly than other aircraft,” he said. “AHRLAC is creating the next generation of engineers on the continent,” he added.
No orders have been announced yet. The AHRLAC is likely to compete with established designs such as the Beechcraft AT-6, Embraer EMB-314 Super Tucano and Pilatus PC-21, and possibly with another new private venture, the Textron Airland Scorpion twinjet.