Ahrlac advances as business rescue nears completion

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Production of Ahrlac aircraft at the factory at Wonderboom airport is proceeding apace as Paramount nears completion of the programme’s business rescue plans.

The state-of-the-art factory at Wonderboom has been operational for several months under Paramount’s stewardship, with manufacturing being ramped up to ensure the timeous delivery of aircraft to customers around the world, Paramount said on 18 August. Approximately 85% of the original staff of the Aerospace Development Corporation (ADC) have been retained.

The Ahrlac was conceived by Aerosud and developed with Paramount funding through the joint venture Aerospace Development Corporation. However, a dispute between Paramount and the Aerospace Development Corporation saw the programme enter business rescue in February 2019. In October 2019 a business rescue plan for the Ahrlac was adopted, which led to the reopening of the factory and production resuming, now under the stewardship of Paramount Aerospace Industries, part of the Paramount Aerospace and Technology Group.

Under the October 2019 plan, Paramount Aerospace Industries acquired the businesses of ADC and its subsidiaries (Aerosud Innovation Centre, ADC Surveillance and Ahrlac Pty Ltd).

“Paramount has provided and facilitated significant capital as part of these business rescue processes in the form of both post commencement funding, working capital, capital investment and the assumption of liabilities and loan repayments, in accordance with the provisions of the respective plans. Further capital will be injected into the business over the coming months to support both marketing initiatives and manufacturing,” Paramount said.

Alison Crooks, CEO of Paramount Industrial Holdings stated: “This is great news for the future of the aircraft, for Paramount, for the South African Aerospace industry, as well as for the global aircraft market. Paramount’s decision, more than a decade ago, to fund the development of the Ahrlac aircraft was a matter of national pride and came at a time when the local aerospace industry was searching for a project that would invigorate the sector. Our passion for the country and for innovation is reflected in the direct investment of almost R1 billion into the project. We are grateful that this strategic programme is now secured and that we can focus on a brighter future.”

Crooks added: “We are very excited about our new management team, made up of leading experts in aircraft engineering, industrialisation and production, who are focusing on the manufacturing of the aircraft and its delivery to customers. We have been encouraged by the global interest in the aircraft and we look forward to making further new customer announcements in the near future. We would like to thank all of our employees who have stood by us and have demonstrated that the resilience, innovative spirit and can-do mentality of South Africans is as strong as ever.”

Paramount said the Ahrlac addresses a key global security requirement by performing missions that previously required several different aircraft. It integrates designs from helicopters, surveillance platforms and reconnaissance aircraft, with the ability to carry multiple systems, such as surveillance radar and electronic systems. A modular mission pod underneath the aircraft can be quickly and easily changed according to the mission, setting the Ahrlac apart from competitors. Robust landing gear ensures operations from rough terrain.

The Mwari is the militarised version and is designed to incorporate advanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities, and close air support (CAS) and weapons systems and have operating costs of less than $1 000 an hour, making it cheaper than helicopters and most other fixed wing competitors. Weapons options include guided munitions, guided rockets, air-to-ground missiles and a cannon pod.

Paramount said that in keeping with its portable production model, the aircraft could, depending on customer requirements, also be exported in kit format for final assembly in customer countries.