AHRLAC: The first multi-platform military aircraft designed and built in Africa


August 14, 2014

AHRLAC is being touted as Africa’s first home-grown military aircraft

AHRLAC is being touted as Africa’s first home-grown military aircraft

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Claimed to be Africa’s first home-grown military aircraft, the Advanced High-Performance Reconnaissance Light Aircraft (AHRLAC), is designed to integrate a range of military and civilian support technologies in one multi-role package. Aimed at performing duties similar to both attack helicopters and reconnaissance planes, the AHRLAC is designed to carry surveillance equipment, weapons, radar and electronic warfare systems.

Conceived first as a design study into the viability of developing a low‐cost, yet high‐performance manned alternative to UAVs, the resulting fixed-wing aircraft was designed as an affordable platform for both civilian and military applications. Designed and built in Pretoria South Africa by Aerosud in partnership with the Paramount Group, the AHRLAC encompasses a range of configurations using a pod system design that allows it to quickly altered to perform different roles. Included in these swappable modules are patrol and reconnaissance, intelligence gathering, close air support, training, cargo and light attack capabilities.

The AHRLAC is configured as a tandem twin-seat replete with Martin-Baker Mk 17 ejection seats, whilst the craft itself is powered by a Pratt & Whitney PT6a-66 700 kW (950 hp) pusher turboprop. Designed to carry payloads in excess of 800 kg (1,760 lb) with a full fuel tank and crew, it is also claimed to be capable of staying aloft for more than 7.5 hours.

"AHRLAC is a home grown, world class capability that will enable developing countries and advanced nations to strengthen and diversify their security infrastructure," said Ivor Ichikowitz, Paramount Group Executive Chairperson. "It offers the global industry a new, very cost effective and multi-role solution that will change the way global air forces procure and structure their air fleets. AHRLAC is a solution shaped for today's modern threats like insurgencies, piracy, poaching and terrorism."

The first AHRLAC launched is strictly a prototype and test mule constructed to evaluate and prove the aircraft’s flight behavior and characteristics, as well as gauge performance. Dubbed the XDM (Experimental Demonstrator), the AHRLAC prototype will be replaced by the second version – the ADM, or Advanced Demonstrator – currently under construction. The ADM will be used to test the AHRLAC’s mission and weapon systems in readiness for full deployment.

Constructed from more than 6,000 parts, of which 98 percent were locally sourced, the AHRLAC required more than 60 technicians and engineers working for over 315,000 hours to design and build. With a system of components designed in-house and constructed nearby, the AHRLAC is claimed to be inexpensive to build and easy to construct.

"Every single part of the aircraft was pre-designed on a computer which allowed it to have a jigless construction," said Dr Paul Potgieter, AHRLAC CEO. "This means that every part fits together, much like a Meccano set, which saves vast amounts of money and time – especially when exporting globally."

Aimed at use across a range of areas including disaster management, internal security, border control, maritime patrol and environmental protection, the AHRLAC platform is also posited as a substitute for light attack helicopters – such as the Boeing AH-6 – in military missions, or as air convoy support for larger aircraft.

The AHRLAC made its first official public flight on 13 August this year, with pricing and availability yet to be revealed.

The short video below explains some more about the design and build of the AHRLAC concept.

Source: AHRLAC Aviation

About the Author
Colin Jeffrey Colin discovered technology at an early age, pulling apart clocks, radios, and the family TV. Despite his father's remonstrations that he never put anything back together, Colin went on to become an electronics engineer. Later he decided to get a degree in anthropology, and used that to do all manner of interesting things masquerading as work. Even later he took up sculpting, moved to the coast, and never learned to surf. All articles by Colin Jeffrey

The OV-10 is twin engined.


The AHRLAC is Africa's first home grown FIXED-WING military aircraft. I believe the Rooivalk attack helicopter is the first home grown military aircraft in Africa.


I think that is really neat. Perhaps with it being a turbo prop, it could use bio fuels?


Depends on what you term 'military'. Atlas aviation also developed the ACE (See wikipedia page). A fully composite military trainer. The government chose to buy the PC9 instead of developing this promising aircraft further. There were other experimental aircraft developed by the CSIR.


Looks like a great machine to me.......unimproved fields would be no problem, lots of reliable power...........has to be a winner for smaller countries, or general rugged stuff anywhere.


South Africa also designed and built a plane based on the Mirage called the Cheetah.

It looks reasonably competent for the role.


Looks a lot like a OV-10 -Bronco


"manned alternative to UAVs"

wow, that's a pretty interesting concept. hahahhaha.


7.5 hours of flight time wouldn't your buttocks just scream after sitting that long? Talk about Iron Eagles!


The Rooivalk was not an entirely original design. It's based on the Aerospatiale (now Eurocopter) Puma. Obviously more of a new aircraft than the Cheetah, which is basically just a Mirage V with a different name.


Came here to state the same as usmc55, the general shape is reminiscent of the OV-10 at first glance.

And i think a updated version of the OV-10 was being shopped around as a CAS platform these days.


Needs to be optionally manned for maximum versatility in the modern era.

Also unless merely a forest surveillance platform, armour may need to be fairly hefty as it will be attracting the same low level fire that all close support helicopters get.

Should work well guarding rhino's at kruger.


Since it's a product of South Africa shouldn't it be the SAHRLAC?

Gregg Eshelman

maybe if it had retractable landing gear.....

Mexoplex 5 Million

I'm very happy for them: 'low‐cost, yet high‐performance manned alternative to UAVs' This actually makes extremely good sense. Though UAV technology will eventually mature, and become cheaper, they will continue to suffer from radio interference and hacking, thus even the most high tech UAVs are vulnerable. remember the US rq- 170( ? ) drone. This is a low cost solution but performs well in spying and light ground attack missions and the design may afford good performance at slow speeds. Future upgrades may include more fuel efficient engines, a level of stealth, more light weight,

Dawar Saify


Not to mention bladder and bowel. . .


@ Mexoplex 5 Million At the speed if flies the reduction in drag is not worth the added complexity.

@ JoeJustJoe Not if it has good seats. @ rocketride Don't eat at the time of day that you will be flying even on your days off and it is called a relief tube.

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