Mwari displays its ‘warrior spirit’ during flight test

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Although the turboprop light tactical aircraft space is well stocked with established and new offerings, Paramount’s Mwari is a welcome addition, with its internal pod system and pending smart weapons integration enabling it to make its presence felt over the battlefield.

This is according to UK-based publication Flight Global, which recently had the opportunity to flight test the aircraft at Paramount’s Wonderboom National Airport facility outside Pretoria.

The AHRLAC (Advanced High Performance Reconnaissance Light Aircraft), as it then was, first flew in 2014, after being developed by ADC, a Paramount and Aerosud partnership. A shareholders’ legal dispute stopped the project in 2019 before Paramount assumed full control of the programme and resumed development.

Mozambique is the Mwari’s launch customer, receiving its first aircraft in late 2022. A year later, it had accumulated over 70 hours of flying on the type, which Paramount is hoping to sell to other African and European customers. Mozambique has ordered three aircraft, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) six.

Paramount is optimistic about the Mwari’s prospects in the armed overwatch market, noting that global air capability spending will reach over $476 billion over the next five years, with the Armed Overwatch/Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) market estimated to provide $32.3 billion of opportunities.

The Mwari is the first new clean-sheet manned military aircraft in South Africa since the Rooivalk attack helicopter.

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 IMSB can carry payloads up to 317 kg, and the Mwari can supply 400 kW of power for payloads. Six external hardpoints on the wings can carry up to 1 000 kg in total.

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). A pusher propeller configuration ensures debris is not kicked up into the sensor gimbal during takeoff or landing.

Weapons integration is taking place this year, by Paramount Aerospace Industries. The specifics of newly adopted mission and weapons systems will be disclosed at a later date.

Production of Paramount’s Mwari ISR aircraft.

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.

Flight test

Flight Global in late 2023 experienced the Mwari first hand, noting its purpose-built ‘find, fix, finish’ design, which includes a high wing and pusher design for excellent cockpit visibility – the weapon systems officer sits notably higher than the pilot, the publication noted.

Its pilot flew a production representative aircraft three times, first from the rear seat, and then twice from the pilot’s seat, exploring its performance limits, aerobatic abilities, and mission profile capabilities, including with its Argos II sensor gimbal. The testing, which also included a simulated forced landing, left “a big smile” on the test pilot’s face.

The full flight test report can be found on the Flight Global website here.