Ahrlac pursuing US market as Bronco II


Newly created company Bronco Combat Systems (BCS) USA has launched the Bronco II aircraft, based on the South African Ahrlac. It is aimed at the US market, with US weapons and equipment, and will be offered to meet the US Air Force’s light attack requirements.

In announcing the Bronco II on 21 February, Paramount Group International Chairman Ivor Ichikowitz said, “Bronco II was designed with the US market in mind; it contains significant American content and we are now excited to be able to commit to bringing full production of the aircraft home to the USA.”

BCS said the fact that the aircraft is 100% digitally designed makes the ability to industrialize the Bronco II in its totality in the United States a reality. “Work has started on establishing a manufacturing base that will enable the full production of the airframe and mission systems integration in the United States.”

US company Fulcrum Concepts LLC will lead weapons and system integration for the Bronco II. Founded in 2008, it describes itself as a “small business that provides full spectrum integrated solutions to customers with unique tactical requirements”. This includes weapons and sensor integration, aircraft structural analysis, electrical design, reverse engineering, flight testing, ground testing, training and obtaining airworthiness certificates, amongst others.

It is not yet clear what Boeing’s role in the Bronco II will be – in 2016 Boeing and Paramount signed a cooperation agreement whereby Boeing would offer weapons and sensors on the militarised version of the Ahrlac.

Fulcrum Concepts Co-Owner and President of Engineering Solutions Scott Richman said, “Bronco II is the ultimate solution to the F3EA (Find/Fix/Finish/Exploit/Analyze) capability, a truly multi-role aircraft with real-time C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) perfectly suited to the kind of light attack requirements we are seeing coming out of the US military forces and a number of other programmes in the US market. We are excited by the opportunity to be one of the lead partners in bringing this innovative capability to the United States.”

Bronco Combat Systems has been established as a US based entity which will bring the aircraft to the US end user. The founding partners are Paramount Group USA, Fulcrum Concepts LLC, and the Aerospace Development Corporation (ADC), who designed the Ahrlac platform. Bronco Combat Systems is actively engaging with other domestic US partners to scale the entity in both capability and reach, it said.
“This is a very exciting time for us, our partners and future US customers who will benefit from the rapid fielding of the Bronco II and its unique capabilities. Discussions are underway with highly respected and experienced US suppliers for total supply chain management, mission software, and mission training,” Ichikowitz said.

BCS said Bronco II aircraft is ideally suited to the US Air Force’s OA-X (light attack/armed reconnaissance) programme, but is not being fielded specifically for that programme. Bronco Combat Systems is launching the aircraft in response to multiple use cases in the US, of which OA-X is only one. The organisation will be engaging with the Special Operations community, the US Army, Navy and Air Force and Border Control, as well as the law enforcement community and potential civilian operators with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) requirements. In addition to the above, Bronco Combat Systems intends to make the aircraft available for evaluation for the OA-X programme.

Ichikowitz said, “This aircraft is a real game-changer for the warfighter. It is unique in that it has been designed specifically as a light attack and ISR platform from the onset. This is not simply an armed variant of a civilian crop-duster or a modified training aircraft. Every inch of this aircraft is designed for purpose – specifically for the kind of asymmetrical warfare that sophisticated military forces are now being asked to conduct. These missions demand rapidly deployable, hybrid ISR and close air support capabilities for which no other platform has been specifically designed.”

Dr Paul Potgieter, the CEO of the Aerospace Development Corporation (formerly Ahrlac Holdings) which designed the aircraft, stated: “This aircraft is a completely clean-sheet, next-generation design, using the latest CATIA and digital design systems specifically for digital production. Even the factory in which this aircraft is currently being produced embraces the innovative principles of the Fourth Industrial Revolution by emphasizing the use of rapid digital prototyping, laser additive and 3D printing, and a jig-less manufacturing approach.”

BCS said the Bronco II is a purpose-built system able to operate for extended periods in remote theatres with minimal infrastructure and a small logistics and maintenance footprint and at a much lower cost than aircraft with similar mission applications and capabilities. Its internal Interchangeable Multi-Mission System Bay (IMSB) allows a single airframe to be easily and rapidly re-configured to perform multiple roles, incorporating high-performance targeting sensors, network communication systems, precision weapons, an electronic self-protection suite, and mission planning systems.

Ahrlac is already in production at Wonderboom International Airport outside Pretoria for two launch customers.