Flight of fancy becomes a reality
Paramount Group, Africa’s largest privately owned arms dealer, has created an aircraft that is more like something out of a Transformers movie than a plane – and it’s South African born and bred. Its makers say the Advanced High Performance Reconnaissance Light Aircraft (AHRLAC) is the first of its kind in the world because it can transform and do the job of four separately built aircraft currently used by the military and civilians. Its design means the plane can go from monitoring traffic from the air to being fitted with 20mm cannons, machine guns and drones in minutes.
It can stay in the air for up to seven hours without refuelling. Speaking on Wednesday at the launch of the craft at Wonderboom Airport, west of Pretoria, Paramount Group chairperson Ivor Ichikowitz said he first pitched the idea to 200 investors in 2009.
“Of the 200 people on that day, 199 said it couldn’t be done,” he said.
According to him, the two-man aircraft could carry out a wide range of operations, including surveillance, policing, border and coastal patrol, as well as antismuggling and antipoaching operations.
“South Africa and the continent must celebrate this achievement in aerospace because this industry plays a major role in economic development,” he said.
“What is often not recognised is that the African defence and aerospace industry is more than up to the challenge.”
The AHRLAC was built by 60 local engineers and technicians who used South African materials to manufacture 6 000 parts for the aircraft.
Paul Potgieter, AHRLAC Holdings’ chief executive, said full-scale production for sale would begin within the next two years, but he declined to reveal the price tag, citing “company confidentiality”.
“There’s already interest not only on the African continent but worldwide,” Potgieter said.
Paramount South Africa chief executive Florence Musengi said there was a need to grow young local talent in research and development in the aerospace sector.
“The success of the project shows that South Africa can be on the cutting edge of the aerospace industry and that we are growing our skills base,” said Musengi.
ADAPTABLE The AHRLAC prepares for its maiden flight from Wonderboom Airport outside Pretoria