Named for a Shona deity, the Mwari is a high wing, twin-boom aircraft powered by a Pratt & Whitney PT6A-66B turboprop engine and pusher propeller. The aircraft vaguely resembles a Cessna Skymaster, without the first engine, with forward swept wings, and with an attack helicopter canopy. It seats two crew in stepped tandem configuration. Maximum cruise speed is 272 knots, with a mission range of 1,150 nm and 31,000-foot service ceiling, according to Paramount. The wings accommodate six hard points for external stores and weapons; the fuselage contains a 20 mm cannon.
Billed as the first military aircraft to be designed and built entirely in Africa, Paramount Aerospace’s AHRLAC (advanced high-performance reconnaissance light aircraft) made its public debut at the Africa Aerospace and Defence show, held at Waterkloof AFB, near Pretoria in South Africa. The aircraft made its first flight on 13 August 2013. The advanced, high-performance, reconnaissance, light aircraft (AHRLAC) is a high-wing aircraft, with stadium seating for the pilot and sensor operator and tops out at 310 mph. Boeing’s mission systems, which will allow this military variant to hunt insurgents, poachers and respond to low-intensity conflicts.
The God Mwari, designated as the Supreme Being among the Shona people of Zimbabwe, is seen as one who creates and sustains the universe. Some people interpret the meaning of Mwari as 'He who is'. However the etymology of the Shona-Bantu word for Mwari is derived from the concept of spreading and is given by the verb -wara, spread. Thus with the correct prefix M, M-wara becomes M-wari, the one who spreads.
The design was already widely used as a border control craft. The military variant of the plane called 'Mwari' was to be on market in 15 months. Cost set at $10 million in 2011, but no price given with systems in place. The aiming was to produce 10 aircraft each year, with the potential to hit 20 to 25.
The Mwari advanced high-performance reconnaissance light aircraft was developed to combine the features of a helicopter and reconnaissance plane, the Mwari offers low acquisition cost, as well as a reduced requirement for maintenance support. Duties include surveillance, policing, patrol, counter insurgency operations, disaster relief and intelligence gathering.
The two-crew aircraft can carry out a wide range of operations, including peacekeeping, surveillance, policing, border/coastal patrol and anti-smuggling tasks; patrol and counter insurgency operations; disaster relief and emergency supply to remote areas; and intelligence gathering. AHRLAC Mwari delivers a flexible mission-configurable payload system, allowing it to be transformed quickly between operational roles. It can stay in the air for more than seven hours, making it a solution for patrolling large land areas, borders and oceans.
Boeing and South Africa-based Paramount Group will collaborate to develop a mission system for the latter company’s “Mwari” reconnaissance and light attack aircraft. The collaboration builds on a 2014 agreement, the companies said 08 March 2014. In an announcement they made at the Global Aerospace Summit in Abu Dhabi, the companies described the Mwari as a militarized variant of Paramount’s advanced, high performance, reconnaissance light aircraft. Boeing will develop an integrated mission system for the aircraft that supports intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and light-strike missions.
On March 8, 2016 Boeing and the Paramount Group, the South Africa-based global defense and aerospace business, expanded their 2014 agreement to cooperate on an advanced mission system for a variant of the Advanced, High Performance, Reconnaissance, Light Aircraft (AHRLAC). A high-wing, two-seat aircraft, AHRLAC is designed to incorporate advanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities and weapons systems. Boeing will develop an integrated mission system for the aircraft enabling ISR and light strike missions for the AHRLAC safety & security, and military variants. This militarised version will be known as Mwari.
Speaking from the Global Aerospace Summit in Abu Dhabi, Jeffrey Johnson, vice president, Business Development, Boeing Military Aircraft, said, "Through AHRLAC, we'll not only bring a flexible, persistent and affordable aircraft to the international market, but we'll also be developing world-class technology in Africa." Johnson added "Our relationship with Paramount will help us access markets that are new to Boeing".
Paramount was formed in South Africa in 1994 with the goal of helping African governments better protect their countries. Today, it is a global corporation, leading the way in global defence and aerospace innovation. The compnay has more than 3000 employees, working with sovereign governments across across five continents and manufacturing in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
The prototypes had as of August 2019 more than 500 hours of testing and field trials having proven the success of the design, viability and cost effectiveness of the manufacturing processes. Construction and commissioning of a 7,000 square metre production facility at the Wonderboom Airport was completed in recent years, having been purpose built and designed to accommodate and integrate ADC’s key production processes, from raw material receiving through to final assembly and testing.
Experimental Development Model “XDM” was the first manned flying prototype platform to be produced and is fitted with additional instrumentation and gauges to empirically verify the design. The aircraft’s landing gear is locked and cannot retract. Based on data and flying characteristics collected over several hundred hours the next and final development platform “PDM” was designed and manufactured.
Production Development Model “PDM” is the improved flying prototype platform and an evolution from XDM. Significant improvements were made to this aircraft, only some of which are visibly detectable. Apart from small shape variation this aircraft is equipped with retractable landing gear. PDM (also referred to as ADM) is considered the production demonstration model and is also used to collect data and to make incremental design improvements. PDM is and will be used to gather as much information as possible with regard to components and systems. The most significant improvements which are anticipated will revolve around reliability of parts and components.
Paramount Aerospace Holdings and the Potgieter family each have 50 percent stakes in the Aerospace Development Corporation (formerly AHRLAC Holdings). As one of South Africa’s largest defence companies, Paramount is owned by the Ichikowitz family and has a large presence in a number of technology areas and markets. The program manager of AHRLAC is Paul Potgieter Jr, whose father Dr Paul Potgieter was Managing Director of AeroSud and headed the Rooivalk attack helicopter development team in the 1980s.
On 28 February Paramount made an application to the North Gauteng High Court for the company to be granted Business Rescue status. It stated that “Paramount Aerospace has been engaged for more than five months in intense negotiations between the shareholders of ADC, in order to ensure the sustainability of the company, but it appears the board has reached a deadlock. Despite Paramount’s best efforts to resolve the deadlock and to inject new capital into the business, the shareholders, unfortunately, could not reach an agreement”.
In a statement issued on 26 March 2019, South African private-sector company Aerospace Development Corporation (ADC) clarified that it, and not the Paramount group, was the original- equipment manufacturer, design authority and manufacturer of the Ahrlac aircraft. (Ahrlac is an acronym for Advanced High Performance Reconnaissance Light Aircraft.) ADC also stressed that it was not part of the Paramount group. “ADC is an independent company, financially, physically and in law,” stated the company.
According to the media report, the conflict between the Potgieter’s and Paramount stems from alleged misappropriation of intellectual property and funding obligations from Paramount. Paramount had an obligation to provide cash to AHRLAC in order to finalise the product. Despite having paid in full for the aircraft, Paramount said it was still awaiting delivery.
ADC was beset by a range of financial, commercial and operational challenges triggered as a result of the breakdown of the relationship between the shareholders and various deadlocks at the board level. Governance, record keeping (including but not limited to financial), data management, organisational structures and contractual relationships was at times poorly managed. During the course of the proceedings, numerous examples of contracting processes that with hindsight had caused issues or inflexibility ranging from the founding shareholders agreement to finance agreements through to critical flaws with the intellectual property agreements were noted. The ADC Group had prior to rescue been run by shareholder representatives who were unable to reach agreements as to their respective roles and obligations – whilst the shareholders agreement did provide for dispute resolution processes, the parties were unable to resolve the various disputes, resulting in operational and financial disputes, which resulted in the Company being unable to raise working capital, and ultimately a liquidity crisis.
On 21 October 2019 the Business Rescue Practitioner of Aerospace Development Corporation (Pty) Ltd (“ADC”), the manufacturer of the AHRLAC aircraft, announced the successful adoption of a Business Rescue supported by Paramount Aerospace Holdings (Pty) Ltd, a Paramount Group company. Paramount Group is a global aerospace and technology company, with multiple aerospace, defence and technology companies in its global portfolio. The Business Rescue Plan will secure the future of the AHRLAC aircraft, its employees and will see the resumption of sales, marketing and manufacturing of the aircraft to customers around the world. Paramount Group injected new capital in the form of post commencement funding, and will inject significant further capital into the business over coming months. Paramount is committed to building a strong sustainable aircraft and aerospace systems capability in South Africa and this transaction supports this objective.
It Is the group’s stated intention is to grow its South African industrial footprint. It currently employs in excess of 1,000 people in South Africa alone. Paramount intends to utilise the current facilities at Wonderboom Airport to its full capacity. It is the intention to put the ahrlac aircraft into serial production, as well as to utilize the factory for other activities and service other aircraft contracts already on hand.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|