With 80 successful flights of a quarter scale model logged and development of the first prototype well underway, certification of South Africa’s first indigenous turboprop aircraft is fast getting up to speed.
The AHRLAC (Advanced High-performance Reconnaissance and Surveillance Aircraft) was first unveiled in September 2011 at the Aerosud manufacturing facility on the eastern side of AFB Waterkloof.
Since then those involved under the leadership of Paul Potgieter Jnr, son of Aerosud founder and internationally respected aviation and aerospace entrepreneur Dr Paul Potgieter, have diligently gone about their work of making the single-engined “homeland security” platform a reality.
“We are now at the stage where the AHRLAC team numbers around the 60 mark. The successful flights of the quarter scale model have boosted enthusiasm massively and all efforts are currently focused on manufacture of the full scale prototype,” Potgieter said.
The AHRLAC team is looking at September as a potential date for the first flight of the full scale prototype.
Potgieter has teamed up with Ivor Ichikowitz’ Paramount Group to ensure maximum exposure of the multi-function, high-wing, Pratt and Whitney engined aircraft to potential users.
He sees AHRLAC as special because of its maximum platform flexibility for multi-role applications. These range from basic visual reconnaissance to advanced electronic surveillance and intelligence to armed patrol.
“The design is modular so as to support maximum basic airframe commonality for the various configurations and rapid role change ability.
“AHRLAC is capable of rapid deployment and fast response times with high cruise and dash speed and extended range. Because of the operational simplicity of this aircraft, in times of need, we can get it on the road to areas where it is required with limited support assistance.”
Key features of AHRLAC include its ‘pusher propeller’ design and high wing for crew visibility, high cruise and dash speeds (maximum cruise speed is 300 knots), payload capacity of 800 kg with full fuel and two crew, long operating range (1 150 nautical miles on internal fuel) and Short Take-Off and Landing (STOL) capability, including from semi-prepared landing strips, with a take-off distance of 550 metres with full payload.
Ichikowitz expects the AHRLAC to be a strong challenger to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). “With AHRLAC we provide a new, affordable, flexible and robust alternative to UAVs opening new operational capabilities to a variety of new users.”
Potgieter maintains that the AHRLAC is a revolutionary aircraft that will maintain the dominant role of the pilot in civil and military flight. “We believe the pilot remains core to conducting effective air operations. In AHRLAC we have produced an aircraft that is, unlike most UAVs, both autonomously capable and offers high survivability, with none of the sub-systems costs related to the operation of UAVs.”
“AHRLAC addresses the limitations of pilotless aircraft in a package which is flexible, reliable and offers excellent value for money. AHRLAC can go places and deliver missions, both civil and military, which a UAV simply cannot,” for reasons that includes current restrictions on UAV flights in controlled airspace.