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Paramount Group AHRLAC / Mwari / Bronco II
The AHRLAC (Advanced High Performance Reconnaissance Light Aircraft) is a South African light reconnaissance and counter-insurgency aircraft developed by AHRLAC Holdings, a joint venture between the Paramount Group and Aerosud. It is designed to perform as an inexpensive, more versatile substitute for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and modern light attack aircraft.
In 2009, Paramount Group began working on a new light turboprop-powered counter-insurgency aircraft. The design study examined a fixed-wing aircraft as an affordable platform for both civilian and military applications as an alternative to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The design of the proposed aircraft drew on the company's prior experience producing helicopters, and several design elements, such as the steep tandem canopy adopted, have been attributed to this source of inspiration; the aircraft is intended to act as a viable alternative for helicopters. It had been conceived as an affordable intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) and light-strike platform with a strong emphasis on low-cost operations was established early on.
In September 2011, design work on the AHRLAC project was formally initiated. In 2011, the manufacturer stated that the price of the aircraft was projected at being under US$10 million per aircraft.
In 2011, a full-scale mockup of the AHRLAC was constructed, alongside a quarter-scale flight-capable model that was later used for a total of 80 test flights. The first full-scale prototype, designated as the Experimental Demonstrator (XDM), was completed using design for manufacture technology, which allowed for jigless construction to be performed, thus producing both time and cost savings. Of the aircraft's 6,000 components, 98 per cent had been designed using CATIA software and were domestically manufactured.
The AHRLAC features a twin-boom, single-pusher-engine, high-mounted forward-swept wing configuration providing for excellent external visibility. It is powered by a single Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A turboprop engine; it has a top speed of 310 mph along with a flight endurance of seven hours. It is flown by a crew of two, seated in tandem configuration, both being provided with Martin-Baker ejection seats and HOTAS (hands on stick-and-throttle) control functionality. The narrow airframe is composed of a combination of metal and composite construction and is designed to provide maximum crew visibility. The AHRLAC has been designed to be capable of operating from austere runways and rough fields; it also possesses STOL (Short Take Off/Landing) and rapid deployment capabilities.
It features a reconfigurable nose, a large mission bay for avionics beneath the two-person cockpit, and the lower fuselage consists of a variety of interchangeable conformal modular units. These modules allow the aircraft to be outfitted with a variety of sensor systems such as infrared and optical cameras, synthetic aperture radar, electronic intelligence gathering and various electronic warfare packages. Additionally, electro-optical turrets can be installed both on the nose and belly of the aircraft.
first prototype
On 26 July 2014, the first AHRLAC prototype conducted its maiden flight from Wonderboom. It was initially deployed on a 20-hour flight test program to contrast computer simulations against data from the prototype's real-world flight performance; during each of these flights, telemetry data was gathered inflight by a specially-equipped Pilatus PC-12 chase plane. The initial prototype is to be used to prove the flight characteristics and performance of the aircraft, while the second prototype, designated as the Advanced Demonstrator (ADM), shall be for testing armaments and mission systems.
On 13 August 2014, the aircraft performed its first public flight display at Wonderboom Airport.
Waterkloof AFB during 2014 African Aerospace & Defence airshow
By February 2015, the first prototype had completed 65 hours of incident-free flying; as a result, the test program proceeded to the next phase, under which the flight envelope was progressively expanded to explore and evaluate its handling, center of gravity, flight performance, airframe qualities, and rough field capabilities. According to Paramount, several prospective customers had shown interest in the aircraft, particularly from the Middle East; the construction of the second prototype was also underway.
In March 2016 Boeing announced a partnership with Paramount Group to cooperate on an advanced mission system for the armed variant of the AHRLAC known as "MWARI".
In May 2014, the flight test program commenced at Wonderboom Airport near Pretoria, the first prototype having been moved there from Aerosud's facility in Centurion, Gauteng. In July 2014, the ground test phase was reportedly completed.
Mwari is a two-crew C4ISR, F3EAD and precision strike aircraft, capable of carrying a wide range of weapons, sensors and systems in extended airborne mission operations. It uses a pusher propeller and has an open system architecture allowing for the rapid incorporation of current and emerging systems, setting a new standard for mission flexibility and adaptability. The aircraft features open architecture, plug and play systems and carries an interchangeable multi-mission pod system, allowing a single platform to perform multiple missions.
The armed Mwari version is designed to carry a single 20 mm or 30 mm cannon, which is internally mounted into the portside nose section. Additionally, it is fitted with either four or six hardpoints for carrying weapons mounted under the wings. Armour for the aircraft is also modular and can be added or removed entirely dependent on the mission requirements. It has an interchangeable pod that allows reconnaissance and other equipment to be swapped out within two hours so that the aircraft can be used for different purposes.
Conformal fuel tanks carried underneath the tail booms have also been offered as an option for the type; when equipped with external fuel tanks, the AHRLAC is capable of a 2,000 nm ferry range.
By September 2016, the prototype had accumulated 250 flying hours during tests, as well as a total of four deployments to the South African border and to neighbouring Botswana for the purpose of operationally representative trials. An improvised trial flight had also been conducted during an outbreak of civil unrest in South Africa.
By September 2016, the developers were in the process of building a new assembly line at Wonderboom, this facility is expected to produce the initial two production aircraft in 2017. The Wonderboom factory is to be capable of producing up to two aircraft per month; it is reportedly readily expandable to double its current size, dependent on customer demand.
In 2014, the developers revealed that, in addition to the previously-announced crewed model of the AHRLAC, they were also in the process of developing an unmanned variant as well. According to Janes, the unmanned model of the AHRLAC had its origins in the quarter-scale model that had been produced for flight testing purposes, which had revealed favourable tendencies towards such use. By September 2014, a pair of prototype unmanned vehicles, which had received the name "Mwari", had been produced. The Mwari UAV is considerably smaller than the manned AHRLAC counterpart, possessing a reduced flight endurance of only 4 hours along with a sensor turret in the nose. The UAV was renamed "Mwewe", as the Mwari name is used for an armed version of the full scale manned AHRLAC.
In March 2016, American aerospace firm Boeing announced that it had entered into a development partnership with Paramount with the aim of producing a militarized version of the Ahrlac. Under this agreement, Boeing shall develop an integrated mission system that will provide the Ahrlac with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and weapons system capabilities; this equipment is presented as being optional, and some customers may prefer to opt for simpler systems instead. The militarized version of the Ahrlac shall be marketed under the name "Mwari".
In February 2018, an announcement was made that the improved AHRLAC design will be marketed in the USA under the name "Bronco II". In May 2020, BRONCO II, Paramount Group's Americanized variant of the AHRLAC, in partnership with Leidos and Vertex Aerospace, offered the light attack and surveillance aircraft to U.S. Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, for its Armed Overwatch program.
Paramount announced that it had sold a total of 9 aircraft to two unnamed countries and that the first would be delivered immediately, the announcement was made at Africa Aerospace and Defence show on 21 September 2022. This marks the first sale of the aircraft and South Africa's first sale of a fixed-wing aircraft in 20 years.
As of 28 February 2019, the AHRLAC program has been placed into business rescue with the Wonderboom factory being shut down and all 140 employees sent home. In August 2019, a business rescue plan was announced for AHRLAC, with Paramount taking full control of the Aerospace Development Corporation (ADC) and its subsidiaries, according to the proposition. In September 2020, ADC stated that production of the Ahrlac had restarted.
The company claims to have made multiple sales of 9 aircraft to two unnamed air forces. The first example was delivered on 23 September to an unnamed air force. A total of 9 Mwari aircraft were on order. Paramount Aerospace Industries claims that they can build three a year or five if demand requires more aircraft.
The Bronco II is designed for ultimate mission flexibility. The aircraft’s unique internal Interchangeable Multi-Mission System Bay (IMSB) allows for a single airframe to be easily and rapidly re-configured to perform multiple roles (e.g. ISR, SCAR, CAS, FACA) incorporating high-performance targeting sensors, network communication systems, precision weapons, an electronic self-protection suite, and mission planning systems.

The Bronco II is designed to “roll-on, roll-off” standards, it can be rapidly disassembled, transported and reassembled in the field by a small crew. Its modular mission systems enable rapid system changes, updates, additions, integration and removal. The Bronco II aircraft was to be manufactured in Crestview, Florida.
Powerplant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-66, 710 kW (950 shp)
Wingspan: 11.9 m (39 ft 0 in)
Length: 10.3 m (34 ft 0 in)
Height: 4.0 m (13 ft 0 in)
Empty weight: 2,000 kg (4,400 lb)
Max takeoff weight: 3,800 kg (8,400 lb)
Maximum speed: 504 km/h (313 mph, 272 kn)
Range: 2,130 km (1,325 mi, 1,150 nmi)
Endurance: 7–10 hrs
Service ceiling: 9,450 m (31,000 ft)
Take-off distance: 550 metres (1,800 ft) with full payload
Guns: GI-2 20 mm cannon
Hardpoints: 6
Wing span: 39.4 ft / 12.00 m
Length: 34.4 ft / 10.50 m
Height: 13.1 ft / 4.00 m
MTOW: 8378 lb / 3800 kg
Max speed: 311 mph / 500 kph / 270 kt
Ceiling: 31,004 ft / 9450 m
Max range: 1268 mi / 2040 km / 3778 nm
Range: 960 km / 596 mi
Endurance: 6.5 hr
Armament: opt. 20 or 30mm cannon
Hardpoints: 4
Bombload: 1700 lb
Crew: two (pilot, copilot/observer)
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