S-Plane to convert Mwari to optionally piloted aircraft

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Paramount Group has signed a memorandum of understanding with S-Plane Automation that will see S-Plane integrate its optionally piloted vehicle solution onto Paramount’s Mwari aircraft.

The memorandum of understanding was announced during Africa Aerospace and Defence 2022 by Paramount, which said the agreement also covered S-Plane’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) mission solutions.

S-Plane’s X-KIT converts manned and unmanned aircraft into complete certified optionally piloted vehicles, unmanned aerial vehicles or manned airborne ISR systems. It will enable the Mwari to address both unmanned aerial support and optionally piloted aircraft operations, with the autonomous systems to be applied throughout the Mwari’s architecture, equipment, subsystems, and interfaces.

S-Plane has been creating certification-ready solutions for manned and unmanned ISR systems for the past 14 years. The company’s X-KIT is, for example, used to convert Indra’s Targus optionally piloted aircraft from a Tecnam P2006T aircraft, by Airbus UpNext for remote control of a Cessna Citation VII business jet for their Extra Performance Wing project and to create the manned Helix ISR system.

Thomas Jones, CEO at S-Plane, stated that, “This wide-ranging collaboration with Paramount is testimony to the exceptional and complementary products, technologies and capabilities of our companies and a shared vision of the future. We especially look forward to welcoming the Mwari to our stable of OPS (Optionally Piloted System) conversions. Enhanced automation is the inevitable next evolution for land, sea and air vehicles and allows aircraft such as the Mwari to achieve their full potential.”

ParagonISR

“The X-KIT’s ParagonISR integration within the Mwari’s existing onboard computer will also unlock maximum ISR capabilities and interfacing throughout the flight envelope and in the theatre of aerial reconnaissance, surveillance, and engagement,” Paramount said.

ParagonISR allows payload operators to view, manage and fuse the outputs of various sensor payloads. It provides features such as payload stream geolocation and projection, mission sharing and sensor coverage. ParagonISR optimises payload application and mission execution in real-time, according to S-Plane.

Steve Griessel, CEO of Paramount Group, stated that, “We are excited to celebrate South African innovation and indigenous technological prowess by way of the signing of this memorandum of understanding, alongside our partners at S-Plane. In doing so, we are not only enhancing the already incredible ISR and operational capabilities of the Mwari, but also strengthening the country’s commitment to aerospace excellence.

“Paramount and S-Plane seek to additionally collaborate in future with respect to various strategic initiatives and projects across the companies’ land, sea and air portfolios, leveraging the strengths of both organisations in their respective focus areas,” he added.

The Mwari has been under development for a decade, and is about to be delivered to a launch customer. Four aircraft are on the production line at the Wonderboom Airport factory – Paramount has orders for nine of the aircraft.

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.

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.