Mwari to turbo charge DCR

The Democratic Republic of Congo has ordered a number of Paramount Mwari advanced high-performance reconnaissance light aircraft (AHRLAC) – believed to be three, though some reports say four, and others six.

The Mwari

The Mwari: A single-engined turboprop multi-role light attack and ISR aircraft. Picture: Paramount

The Mwari is a single-engined turboprop multi-role light attack and ISR aircraft developed by the Paramount Group for ISR, light ground attack, border patrol, and maritime surveillance missions.

Paramount is a South African-founded global aerospace and technology company, now headquartered in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, and with production and maintenance facilities in South Africa, Kazakhstan, India, and the USA.

Paramount designed the Mwari to be cost-effective, easy to maintain and capable of operating from austere airstrips with a minimal logistical footprint, powered by a Pratt & Whitney PT6A-66B turboprop engine. The aircraft features an innovative Interchangeable Mission Systems Bay (IMSB), in the lower part of the fuselage, with open-architecture and flexible mission systems allowing for the rapid low-cost integration of new sensors, payloads, weapons and avionics equipment, and for the rapid installation of new sensor or payload options in the field in less than two hours.

Initially marketed to air forces with limited budgets as a relatively inexpensive and more cost-effective and operationally useful alternative to higher-end fast jets, Paramount has started to market the aircraft more widely, recognising that it has greater applicability to modern-day counter-insurgency operations than traditional 4th and 5th generation fighters, and stressing that with the integration of modern command, control and communications systems architecture the Mwari can serve as a critical link between aircraft, and ground forces in a range of scenarios.

Paramount (in association with Leidos and Vertex Aerospace) offered an International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR)-compliant variant, the Bronco II, for the US Special Operations Command’s Armed Overwatch requirement, narrowly losing out to the Air Tractor/L3Harris AT-802U Sky Warden.

At DSEI, Paramount founder Ivor Ichikowtiz said that the company hoped to sell the Mwari to European air forces, as an alternative to platforms like the Embraer/Sierra Nevada Corporation] Super Tucano.

“We believe that a lot of NATO countries are going to have operational requirements for this class of aircraft. We know Portugal has a light attack and ISR requirement, and we are talking to a number of smaller NATO countries who have limited air force capabilities,” he said.

The Mwari was the first clean-sheet-of-paper manned South African military aircraft since the Rooivalk attack helicopter. The aircraft was originally developed by AHRLAC Holdings, a joint venture between the Paramount Group and Aerosud, and made its first flight on July 26 2014. The so-called AHRLAC Experimental Demonstrator (XDM) was, followed by the Advanced Demonstrator (ADM), which was built for testing weapons and mission systems.

The production-standard aircraft flew for the first time in 2022, and Mozambique took delivery of the first production Mwari in December 2022, rapidly putting the aircraft into use for challenging reconnaissance and surveillance missions.

The aircraft is being manufactured at a new factory at Wonderboom airport, near Pretoria.

Jon Lake

Jon Lake

Jon is defence editor for both Arabian and African Aerospace magazines.