Defence and aerospace company Paramount Group announced in December that its Advanced High-Performance Reconnaissance Light Aircraft (AHRLAC) reached a milestone of 50 hours of successful incident-free test flying.
The AHRLAC, the first military manned fixed-wing aircraft to be fully designed, tested and developed in Africa, has undertaken more than 55 flights since its first flight in July last year.
Paramount Group believes its vigorous flight test programme is expanding the flight envelope in key areas of the aircraft’s performance, including handling qualities, airframe systems, centre of gravity, performance ranges and rough field capabilities.
“This is a proud moment for Paramount and the AHRLAC team of engineers and technicians who have invested so much of their creativity, energy and ‘can-do’ mentality to develop this unique aircraft,” says Paramount Group executive chairperson Ivor Ichikowitz.
He adds that the incident-free flight record is also a proud moment for South Africa and the rest of the African continent, as it showcases the continent’s aerospace capability through innovative design, technologies and manufacturing processes.
The AHRLAC test flight team leader Blokkies Joubert says the aircraft has proven to be a highly reliable aircraft with a truly rugged, solid feel, which is a testament to its high build quality.
“The aircraft’s performance has matched all our initial predictions and its systems have performed as they should. The AHRLAC has shown itself to be predictable, intuitive and easy to fly, a true testament to the aerodynamic work done in the early stages of development. Control inputs in flight are light and direct, with a very accurate and quick response,” says Joubert.
He adds that the aircraft addresses a key industry need by performing the combined tasks that previously required four separately configured aircraft. The AHRLAC integrates designs from surveillance platforms and reconnaissance aircraft, with the ability to carry surveillance, weapons, radar and electronic warfare systems.
Joubert says this has brought advanced operational solutions, historically requiring more costly aircraft or complex unmanned aerial surveillance systems.
“Operationally, the aircraft is extremely reliable and ease to fly and maintain. The AHRLAC’s predictable nature, remarkable exterior view and the ease with which it responds are also outstanding features. Every member of the development team believes that the AHRLAC is the best solution for the problems it was designed to solve.”
Paramount Group highlights the AHRLAC as a ground-breaking example of what Africa is capable of producing and believes it will be a key solution to bolster Africa’s capability to deal with its security issues.
It adds, however, that the AHRLAC is not only a solution for Africa, but also for defence forces around the world – for developing countries or for nations with advanced and sophisticated defence capabilities.
The aircraft was designed and built by a team of 60 engineers and technicians. Further, Paramount Group highlights that 98% of all 6 000 parts of the airframe were designed and produced locally by the engineering team, which the company believes to be one of the most innovative aspects of the construction phase.
Since the launch of the AHRLAC project in September 2011, the team spent 315 000 labour hours completing detailed designs and manufacturing the first prototype.
“AHRLAC is creating the next generation of engineers on the continent and is an excellent reflection of the capabilities of African engineers. There are a number of skills challenges in South Africa and beyond our borders, but the incredible progress made by local engineers has put them at the forefront of global aerospace innovation.
Their joint expertise has turned them into pathfinders, who are proudly setting new milestones, through continuous innovation that we can export to the world,” concludes Ichikowitz.