Claimed to be Africa’s first home-grown military aircraft, the Advanced High-Performance Reconnaissance Light Aircraft (AHRLAC), is designed to integrate a range of military and civilian support technologies in one multi-role package. Aimed at performing duties similar to both attack helicopters and reconnaissance planes, the AHRLAC is designed to carry surveillance equipment, weapons, radar and electronic warfare systems.

Conceived first as a design study into the viability of developing a low‐cost, yet high‐performance manned alternative to UAVs, the resulting fixed-wing aircraft was designed as an affordable platform for both civilian and military applications. Designed and built in Pretoria South Africa by Aerosud in partnership with the Paramount Group, the AHRLAC encompasses a range of configurations using a pod system design that allows it to quickly altered to perform different roles. Included in these swappable modules are patrol and reconnaissance, intelligence gathering, close air support, training, cargo and light attack capabilities.

The AHRLAC is configured as a tandem twin-seat replete with Martin-Baker Mk 17 ejection seats, whilst the craft itself is powered by a Pratt & Whitney PT6a-66 700 kW (950 hp) pusher turboprop. Designed to carry payloads in excess of 800 kg (1,760 lb) with a full fuel tank and crew, it is also claimed to be capable of staying aloft for more than 7.5 hours.

"AHRLAC is a home grown, world class capability that will enable developing countries and advanced nations to strengthen and diversify their security infrastructure," said Ivor Ichikowitz, Paramount Group Executive Chairperson. "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 AHRLAC launched is strictly a prototype and test mule constructed to evaluate and prove the aircraft’s flight behavior and characteristics, as well as gauge performance. Dubbed the XDM (Experimental Demonstrator), the AHRLAC prototype will be replaced by the second version – the ADM, or Advanced Demonstrator – currently under construction. The ADM will be used to test the AHRLAC’s mission and weapon systems in readiness for full deployment.

Constructed from more than 6,000 parts, of which 98 percent were locally sourced, the AHRLAC required more than 60 technicians and engineers working for over 315,000 hours to design and build. With a system of components designed in-house and constructed nearby, the AHRLAC is claimed to be inexpensive to build and easy to construct.

"Every single part of the aircraft was pre-designed on a computer which allowed it to have a jigless construction," said Dr Paul Potgieter, AHRLAC CEO. "This means that every part fits together, much like a Meccano set, which saves vast amounts of money and time – especially when exporting globally."

Aimed at use across a range of areas including disaster management, internal security, border control, maritime patrol and environmental protection, the AHRLAC platform is also posited as a substitute for light attack helicopters – such as the Boeing AH-6 – in military missions, or as air convoy support for larger aircraft.

The AHRLAC made its first official public flight on 13 August this year, with pricing and availability yet to be revealed.

The short video below explains some more about the design and build of the AHRLAC concept.

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