Paramount Group received “a phenomenal amount of interest” in its Mwari reconnaissance and strike aircraft at the recent IDEX defence show in Abu Dhabi as it aims to increase its sales in the Middle East.
The Mwari is the armed version of the Ahrlac aircraft and was Paramount’s star attraction at IDEX 2017. During the exhibition, Paramount Group was visited by His Highness Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and the Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, the Defence Minister of Greece and the Defence Minister of Columbia, among others.
The Mwari is touted by Paramount as combining the technology of a BAE Systems Hawk aircraft and the job of a light helicopter at an operating cost of less than $1 000 an hour, “making it ideally suited to tackle the current insurgency and asymmetrical threats currently found in many parts of the world.”
“We believe the Middle East is an ideal environment for production collaboration. The region is moving away from sourcing equipment from traditional sources and, focussing strongly on developing technology. In the face of global political and economic instability, we’re also seeing a transition towards affordable defence solutions as governments hope to provide their citizens with sustainable security,” said Ivor Ichikowitz, Founder and Executive Chairman of Paramount Group.
“This makes the Mwari perfectly suited for the Middle Eastern market. It does 80 percent of what a fighter jet can do, at 1/12th of the cost, making it exponentially cheaper than anything else on the market. In today’s world of modern warfare, security threats aren’t clear and you never know who you’re going to fight, where they are, or what they’re equipped with, so deploying a more cost effective solution makes much more sense than deploying far more expensive technologies against an enemy using equipment that are significantly less sophisticated.
“However, the Mwari has more going for it than just its affordability. With its ability to take-off and land on improvised airstrips, it requires very little ground support. You can literally land it on a level strip of land in the desert or the jungle, and operate from there. As the leading provider of defence technology solutions from the African continent, we are delighted with its success at IDEX this year”.
The Ahrlac will be put into production at a new 15 000 square metre facility at Wonderboom airport in April this year. This factory will produce the unarmed Ahrlac, which will be outfitted with mission systems at a separate facility to become the Mwari. The Wonderboom facility has the capacity to manufacture two aircraft a month.
The first Ahrlac prototype (ZU-XDM) has accumulated over 250 hours of flight testing since its first flight on 26 July 2014. According to Ahrlac Programme Manager at Aerosud Paul Potgieter Junior, the Ahrlac has been deployed on several ‘test camps’ along South Africa’s borders. This has seen it undertake hot weather trials in Upington, where it performed heat soaks and flights at midday in “exceptionally” hot conditions. After the Upington testing, believed to have been carried out in late January/early February, ZU-XDM was despatched to Kleinsee on the west coast of the Northern Cape.
While flying over the ocean, the Ahrlac used its sensors to locate and identify a ship 70 nautical miles from Kleinsee. Other testing carried out included heat soaks and midday flights in 35 degree Celsius temperatures (the Ahrlac is designed to operate with an outside air temperature of 55 degrees Celsius), night flights (the Ahrlac has a fully night vision goggle compatible cockpit) and evaluating cruise, ascent and descent performance. Some 20 hours of flying were accumulated during the Kleinsee and Upington camps. The Ahrlac has also flown to Botswana, and been deployed along several of South Africa’s borders.
ZU-XDM has been fitted with various sensors, including an electro-optical turret, Avni thermal imager and other sensors while the second prototype (ADM), which is almost complete, will have a full mission system, conformal fuel tanks and weapons, such as bombs, rockets, cannon and Mokopa missiles.
“The Mwari is also key to the company’s aim to expand its market and customer base in the Middle East. With its portfolio including Mwari, its range of advanced 4×4, 6×6 and 8×8 armoured vehicles, UAVs and aerospace mission systems solutions the company is expecting to increase their sales to the Middle East market by 50 percent over the next two years,” Paramount said.
“In addition to sales, the company intend to continue establishing strong partnerships in the region. Building on their existing production-sharing agreement in Jordan and their other partnerships in the region, Paramount Group is already in talks with countries in the MENA region to open a factory, with the UAE in particular in mind as an ideal environment for production collaboration in which to establish significant industrial activity.”
Paramount has opened armoured vehicle factories in Azerbaijan, Jordan and Kazakhstan.
Main picture caption: The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Chairman of Paramount Group, Ivor Ichikowitz discussing the Mwari. Photo courtesy Emirates News Agency (WAM).