Paramount Group Takes off with New Aircraft
The “Ahrlac” jet may not be an aircraft that you have heard of, but it has its place in aerospace history: it’s the first defence aircraft to be completely designed and manufactured in Africa.
Ivor Ichikowitz, Founder and Chief Executive of its South Africa’s maker, Paramount Group, said: “It’s 100% homegrown - it’s a big story for Africa, for realising that we don’t have to rely on the west to do things.”
In a world of huge defence and aerospace players, what does Paramount offer that the likes of Lockheed Martin, EADS or even Embraer don’t? “Teaspoons,” said Ichikowitz.
What he meat is that Paramount acts as a one-stop shop for smaller countries that don’t just need to buy armoured vehicles or planes, but need all the support systems, equipment and servicing that goes along with the defence spending. “We supply everything from the teaspoons, to the hospital beds, to the electronics,” Ichikowitz explained.
Paramount focuses on supplying emerging markets, and will do modest deals that other defence contractors might deem too small. “They don’t get out of bed unless it’s $20m. I’ll do a deal for $2m.”
Ichikowitz said Paramount is ready to tailor sales to the needs of buyers with limited budgets.
Paramount operates in 28 countries in Africa, and expanded six years ago to Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and South America. Paramount also has recognised that national pride is a key part of defence spending, and allows many of their products to have locally-made components and local assembly.
The group is also a supplier for other contractors. “There’s not a single Boeing 737 that can fly without our components,” Ichikowitz pointed out.
Ichikowitz explained that the Ahrlac (pronounced “Ahh-lack”) is more of a platform than a plane, able to perform multiple roles. It can do 80% of the tasks of a helicopter, at 20 % of the cost.
“The Ahrlac can fly for 7 hours at 400 knots, and deal with a problem on the spot. It doesn’t do vertical takeoff, but most helicopter missions don’t need that either”.