"First" All-African Military Plane

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The South African aeronautical firm Aerosud announced this week the Ahrlac high-wing, tandem-seat, pusher aircraft design, which may break new ground for South African aviation. South Africa has produced light aircraft before and a quarter century ago designed an attack helicopter, but the Ahrlac (short for Advanced High Performance Reconnaissance Light Aircraft) may be the first modern all-African aircraft purpose-built to fill roles that include military operations. Aerosud plans to fly it for the first time next year. It will be built with six underwing hardpoints that can carry weapons or external fuel tanks. Aerosud has designed the aircraft for multi-role capability by making part of the fuselage itself swappable.

The fuselage is built to carry a pod that is aerodynamically and aesthetically integrated into the airframe. In practice that means the pod is actually the bottom section of the fuselage. The conformal pod is built to contain the sensors, electronics, supplies or weapons required by its mission profile and it is swappable to adapt the same airframe to different missions by exchanging pods. Aerosud says the aircraft has been through wind tunnel testing and has completed roughly 80 flights of a one-quarter scale model. Performance goals are a 300-knot cruise over 1,150 nautical miles (without external tanks) and a payload of more than 800 kg. Aerosud hopes to begin production next year and says it has seen significant interest in the project. The company is aiming for a sub-$10 million price tag.