Mozambique revealed as Mwari launch customer

24159

Mozambique’s military is the launch customer for Paramount’s Mwari, which has been spotted in the southern African country in Mozambican markings.

Photos of the aircraft, apparently in Cabo Delgado province, have emerged online, with the aircraft bearing registration FA-402 (formerly ZU-MWA). Flight tracking data showed the aircraft flying around Nacala at the end of January.

ZU-MWA is the third Ahrlac built, after two prototypes, and is one of two pre-production aircraft. It first flew in April 2022 and was subsequently added to the South African register before heading to Mozambique.

An Ahrlac prototype was in mid-2021 tracked flying in Mozambique, presumably on demonstration trials, giving the first indication of an impending order. Then, at the September 2022 edition of the Africa Aerospace and Defence exhibition, Paramount Aerospace revealed that it was about to deliver its first Mwari to an African launch customer. Flight International reported that this took place in December, with the second aircraft due for delivery in February.

Paramount in September 2022 said four aircraft were on the production line at the Wonderboom Airport factory and there were orders for nine of the aircraft, from two customers.

Mike Levy, chief executive of Paramount Aerospace Industries, told Flight International that the company would soon be fitting weapons to the launch customer’s aircraft, but did not disclose what these would be.

The Mwari has been 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 armaments and mission systems. Production was delayed by the programme being placed in business rescue in February 2019 after contractual, management, intellectual property and funding disputes between Aerosud and Paramount Group, but after the final phase of the Business Rescue Plan was completed in August 2020, production restarted the following month.

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.

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.

Although the Mwari’s launch customer is Mozambique, Paramount is targeting potential clients around the world. In mid-2021 the aircraft, redesignated the Bronco II, took part in flight trials in the US as it competed for a competition for a new Armed Overwatch aircraft, but in 2022, US Special Operations Command selected the AT-802U Sky Warden. Nevertheless, for the Mwari to compete in such an international competition is a notable achievement.

Flight International reported there are strong sales prospects from at least two other countries, and it is likely that the aircraft’s production rate will be increased over the next year.

Paramount has over the last few years provided a significant quantity of military equipment to Mozambique’s armed forces (FADM), including refurbished Gazelle, Mi-8/17 and Mi-24 helicopters, Marauder armoured personnel carriers, and most recently refurbished Let-410 and CN235M transports.