So, how do you compete with the expensive UAVs and drones that just keep getting better and better when you don’t have enough to spend on such projects? You do exactly what Africa did; build your own military aircraft. Say hello to AHRLAC – Advanced High-Performance Reconnaissance Light Aircraft; an aircraft to cater to military and civilian needs.
The idea was to come up with an aircraft capable of light attack role while also doubling as a reconnaissance plane. The end product, AHRLAC, has been designed to be able to carry weapons, radar, surveillance equipment and electronic warfare systems. The aircraft has been designed and then built in Pretoria South Africa by collaboration between two companies; Aerosud and Paramount Group. It is equipped with pods that are swappable for different roles the airplane will be used for. The swappable modules allow it to have reconnaissance, intelligence gathering, close air support, training, cargo and light attack capabilities.
Jumping into a bit technicalities of this home-built aircraft from Africa, you would find that it has been built with a tandem twin-seat replete with Martin-Baker Mk 17 ejection seats and is powered by a Pratt & Whitney PT6a-66 700 kW (950 hp) pusher turboprop. The AHRLAC is capable of carrying payloads that exceed 800 kg and is able to stay airborne for more than 7.5 hours with a full fuel tank and crew.
Ivor Ichikowitz, Paramount Group Executive Chairperson says; ‘AHRLAC is a home grown, world class capability that will enable developing countries and advanced nations to strengthen and diversify their security infrastructure. It offers the global industry a new, very cost effective and multi-role solution that will change the way global air forces procure and structure their air fleets. AHRLAC is a solution shaped for today’s modern threats like insurgencies, piracy, poaching and terrorism.’
The first prototype has been constructed to gauge the performance and is being called the XDM – Experimental Demonstrator whereas the second prototype currently under construction is being called the ADM – Advanced Demonstrator and shall be used to ascertain the performance of the mission and weapon systems before full deployment. The aircraft has been constructed with more than 6000 parts and 98% of them were locally manufactured. Sixty technicians and engineers had to work for more than 315,000 hours in order to come up with the design and fabrication. The AHRLAC, owing to the fact that it uses local resources, is quite inexpensive and easy to construct.
Dr Paul Potgieter, AHRLAC CEO says; ‘Every single part of the aircraft was pre-designed on a computer which allowed it to have a jigless construction. This means that every part fits together, much like a Meccano set, which saves vast amounts of money and time – especially when exporting globally.’
The first official public flight was made on 13th August and we are still awaiting the pricing and availability.