Paramount Group, the African-based global defense and aerospace company, and its partners in AHRLAC Holdings have announced that its new state-of-the-art aerospace factory is fully operational and ramping up for full production of the Advanced High Performance and Reconnaissance Light Aircraft (AHRLAC) and its military variant, the Mwari. This comes at a time when the second AHRLAC aircraft (PDM) has been demonstrated to complete production standards and includes important new features such as retractable undercarriage and ejection seats.
The first AHRLAC prototype (XDM) is a very mature and clean aircraft, as testified to by its exceptionally long test life and ongoing availability (>300 hours), but the production ready AHRLAC (PDM) is an order of magnitude more mature from a production perspective.
The production ready AHRLAC (PDM) boasts a range of new features, including:
- Revised cockpit canopies with OBOGS oxygen system
- Retractable landing gear
- Mission systems
- The latest Martin Baker ejection seats
- More sophisticated avionics system, with open architecture, which allows for ‘plug and play’ operations
- Significant design upgrades to the fuselage including lighter 8G rated airframe
- A new whisper-quiet propeller and exhaust system, minimizing noise
- Improved handling for man oeuvres
The PDM completed its first flight on the 14th of July 2017 and has since been undergoing rigorous flight testing as the engineering team is further extending the flight envelope. The execution of a series of flights in formation with XDM was a major highlight for the program.
In another key milestone, the company announced the successful testing of its unique retractable landing gear. The gear retraction system on the aircraft features multiple functions including gear activation systems (e.g. hydraulic pump, valves and actuators), gear control/activation circuits, gear position locks, gear up/down lock indication, safety interlocks e.g. gear squat switches, and an emergency gear extension function in a single integrated unit.
An additional important element of preparation for the testing of the landing gear was the installation of a second active ejection seat in the rear cockpit, bringing the PDM to production standard also in this respect.
As part of the flight testing program, the first prototype (XDM) was deployed to remote and unprepared air strips, enrolled in long missions at high temperatures, and flew in varying coastal conditions. With the successful completion of the second deployment to the remotely Kleinzee area, on the West Coast of South Africa’s Northern Cape Province, as part of the testing for austere environment deployment, the development role of the XDM prototype is now complete.
Having completed well in excess of 300 engine hours, it will continue to be a useful asset for the program, mainly aimed at activities such as sensor and man-machine interface development. A number of sensors have already been integrated, including stabilized electro-optical sight (EOS) with a high-powered laser designator, wide area infrared line scanner and synthetic aperture search radar.
Depending on customer requirements, the AHRLAC can then be equipped with mission systems at one of Paramount’s or its partners’ global facilities to convert the aircraft into the military version, Mwari - a “SMART”, highly sophisticated command and control centre, with outstanding ISR and CAS capabilities.
One of the AHRLAC/Mwari’s other key features is an Interchangeable Multi-Mission Pod System (IMPS) under the aircraft’s cockpit. The interchangeable pod allows a single airframe to be used in multiple roles with nearly zero down time between role changes. The pod can carry various systems ranging from ELINT, COMINT, SAR, FLIR and cargo.