Democratic Republic of Congo emerges as Mwari’s next customer

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After selling three Mwari aircraft to Mozambique’s military, Paramount is providing six of the aircraft to the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is also a customer for Paramount armoured personnel carriers.

The Mwari was seen in Mozambican markings at the end of January, and now the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been named as the next customer. During the Africa Aerospace and Defence exhibition in September last year, Paramount just said it had orders for nine from two air forces.

The Mwari was under development for over a decade, originally as the AHRLAC (Advanced High Performance Reconnaissance Light Aircraft), and is the first new clean-sheet manned military aircraft in South Africa since the Rooivalk attack helicopter. First flight of the Experimental Demonstrator (XDM) was in July 2014, followed by the Advanced Demonstrator (ADM), which was built for testing weapons and mission systems.

The Mwari is marketed as a relatively inexpensive alternative to high-end military aircraft for surveillance, maritime patrol and counter-insurgency operations. It can also be used for training. The Mwari has been designed to easily perform multiple missions thanks to an innovative Interchangeable Mission Systems Bay (IMSB), located in the belly of the aircraft, providing near-endless sensor and payload options which can be integrated and be swapped out in less than two hours. Open-architecture and flexible systems allows for the quick and low-cost integration of new pods, avionics, cargo, special mission equipment, weapons and sensors.

The PT6 turboprop-powered Mwari has a service ceiling of up to 31 000 feet, and offers a maximum cruise speed of 250 knots, a mission range of up to 550 nautical miles with ordinance and an overall endurance of up to 6.5 hours. The aircraft also offers a short take-off and landing (STOL) capability, with retractable landing gear optimised for both semi and unprepared airstrips or sites.

Sensors and equipment that have already been fitted to the aircraft include Hensoldt’s Argos II electro-optical gimbal, Paramount Advanced Technologies’ 420 sensor ball, Thales’s Avni thermal reconnaissance system, Sysdel’s MiniRaven radar warning receiver, and Reutech’s ACR510 radio, amongst others. Future options could include a synthetic aperture radar (SAR).

The aircraft features an unusual twin-boom, single-pusher-engine, high-mounted forward-swept wing configuration, giving the aircraft an unconventional external appearance and providing for excellent external visibility (Paramount is considering air conditioning for the greenhouse-like cockpit). The two-crew are seated in tandem configuration, both being provided with optional Martin-Baker Mk 16 ejection seats, and full HOTAS (Hands On Throttle-And-Stick) side-stick controls. The rear cockpit is fitted with a 21-inch large screen display.

Mwari has been designed with portable production in mind. The aircraft could, depending on customer requirements, be exported in kit format for final assembly in customer countries and can easily integrate into supply chains around the world, enabling scalable mass production.

In addition to the Mwari, Paramount is supplying its new Maatla light 4×4 protected vehicles to the DRC, with at least six vehicles seen in November last year on their way to the DRC by road. At the time of its launch last year, Paramount said the Maatla (meaning Power in Setswana) had already received orders for 50 vehicles from two customers.