Innovative New Aircraft From South Africa
South African companies Aerosud Holdings and Paramount Group have unveiled what is believed to be the first all-African produced defense aircraft. Dubbed the Ahrlac – Advanced High Performance Reconnaissance Light Aircraft – its developers believe that it will fill a gap in the market for an aircraft that can undertake military and civilian surveillance work. Managing Director of Aerosud, Paul Potgieter, noted in a statement that there is nothing quite like the Ahrlac in the marketplace, and it will primarily cater to African governments undertaking peacekeeping and humanitarian work, as well as serving a role in combat situations.
The compact, two-person Ahrlac features a rear-mounted propeller and bulbous cockpit to facilitate an unobstructed view which is essential for reconnaissance. Group Chairman of Paramount Group, Ivor Ichikowitz, expressed his view that the future of peacekeeping and defense in Africa will be airborne, and with the ability to fly at different speeds and remain airborne for up to seven hours, the Ahrlac will be ideal for African governments which have to deal with vast distances and unsecured borders. Moreover, most African countries do not have the financial resources to avail themselves of jet and helicopter technology, and the Ahrlac will be marketed as a more affordable alternative.
The marketing of the Ahrlac will not be restricted to defense ministries, but will include border patrols, policing authorities and forestry agencies in Latin America, Asia and Eastern Europe. The aircraft will be produced at Aerosud’s premises based in Centurion near Johannesburg. The company already manufactures wing components, galleys and seats for European Aeronautic Defense & Space Co.
By concentrating their efforts in Africa, Paramount and Aerosud will have the advantage over Western contractors, and with the South African defense industry reportedly poised to overhaul the armed forces, the market appears ready for this innovative aircraft. While the developers are keeping tight-lipped about who their customer is, Ichikowitz has been reported as saying that they have received an order for fifty aircraft at a cost up just under $10 million each. Production of two to three Ahrlac aircraft per month is expected to start in late 2012 or at the beginning of 2013.