In a statement issued on March 26, 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.
The local intellectual property embodied in the Ahrlac was, and would remain, the property of ADC, regulated, governed and protected by South Africa’s legislative and control authorities. “ADC has no agreement with the Paramount group regarding the variant of Ahrlac referred to by Paramount as Mwari.”
The press release was issued under the names of ADC CEO Paul Potgieter Jnr and MD Paul Potgieter Snr. “We wish to sincerely thank our many friends, colleagues, suppliers and associates who have all come out so strongly in support of our efforts to safeguard the interests of ADC, our aircraft Ahrlac and its team of engineers, designers and technicians, who have truly been successful in developing this world leader in the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) domain,” they wrote.
“We subscribe to and are legally obliged to follow all the relevant South African and International laws,” they assured. “End-User identification and the appropriate approvals form a critical part of our lives in ensuring that the aircraft and its mission systems end up with legitimate customers, duly approved by the South African government, in compliance with all appropriate legislation and due process.”
This statement followed reports that the Paramount group’s subsidiary, Paramount Aerospace Holdings, had made an application to start business rescue proceedings for ADC on February 28. In a statement issued on March 4, Paramount said: “Paramount Aerospace Holdings 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; 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.”
It was also reported at the time that the Ahrlac plant, at Wonderboom Airport, in Pretoria/Tshwane, had been shut down and some 140 staff sent home. They had not received their salaries for January and February. In their statement on March 26, the Potgieters stated that they had had a “positive response from our suppliers and industry partners”, as well as “great support from our staff”.
The Ahrlac is a tandem two-seat machine intended for a wide range of military, paramilitary, policing and civilian tasks and missions. The first prototype made its maiden flight in July 2014, with the second prototype following suit in July 2017. The aircraft is designed to be easily reconfigured from one mission to another, and the bottom section of the fuselage takes the form of a conformal (aerodynamically integrated into the airframe) modular unit (or units). Switch the unit(s), and the role is changed. These modular units can be configured to carry sensors, electronics, weapons and even supplies which could be dropped by parachute.
The aircraft can be fitted with six underwing hardpoints to carry weapons. Two of these hardpoints will also be fitted to carry external fuel tanks. It will also be able to carry a 20 mm cannon. The aircraft can be equipped with a self-defence system (decoys to distract or confuse surface-to-air missiles). The Ahrlac can, if required, be fitted with two Martin Baker Mark 16 ejection seats for its crew. The design has a high wing and a pusher (rear mounted) turboprop engine to provide its crew with maximum visibility and it will have a highly integrated avionics system. Its tail unit is mounted on twin booms, extending from the wing.