Mvari’s plane. Image: Paramount Group

The Paramount Group produced and sold the first military aircraft made in South Africa since the 1980s, when state-owned arms maker Denel introduced the Rooivalk attack helicopter.

Africa’s largest private defense and aerospace company said it had received orders for the Mwari, a reconnaissance and precision strike aircraft, with the first delivery due this week after an 11-year development period. The nine planes will be delivered to two air forces, the company said, saying it could not yet reveal their identities.

South Africa built its arms and aerospace industries during the apartheid era, when it was the target of international sanctions and sought to strengthen its defenses against both perceived external threats and internal insurgency. This led to the development of everything from the Rooivalk to tanks and assault rifles.

“We had this extraordinary skill set that came out of the historical mistake that was the apartheid-era aerospace industry,” Ivor Ichikowitz, Paramount’s founder, said in an interview. “And the skill set was typical of people who were in their 50s. And we wanted to develop a project that would give us the opportunity to train the next generation of aerospace engineers.”

Paramount is looking to market Mwari, a Shona word in Zimbabwe that means “all-knowing, all-seeing deity,” around the world, where it could be used for counter-insurgency and other purposes, including maritime surveillance and counter-terrorism missions. poaching.

“We are targeting any country in the world that is dealing with an asymmetric threat,” Ichikowitz said, referring to countries fighting terrorists or insurgents. “We are targeting any country in the world that is fighting the enemy with a $30,000 Land Rover. And they use the $150,000 Stinger missile to eliminate it.

Emerging markets

Aircraft sales are primarily aimed at countries with emerging markets that will prioritize affordability. It costs about 180 million rand, excluding add-ons such as advanced avionics systems, and can be operated for $1,500 per hour of flight time.

The two-pilot aircraft can carry up to a ton of high-precision weapons and has a range of about 960 km with a lighter load. It has a changeable unit that allows reconnaissance and other equipment to be replaced within two hours so that the aircraft can be used for different purposes.

Its competitors mainly consist of converted sprayers, small passenger aircraft and training aircraft such as the Embraer Super Tucano, as well as unmanned aerial vehicles.

Image: Paramount Group
Image: Paramount Group

“The first sales were largely in Africa because that’s where we see the greatest operational need,” Ichikowitz said. “If you look at what’s happening in Africa right now, we have several environments where there are asymmetric threats that require a low-cost, high-performance platform.”

Governments in Mozambique, Somalia and across the Sahel region of West Africa are battling Islamist militants, a number of African countries such as South Africa have long coastlines that require patrolling, and Southern African countries are trying to stop rhino poaching by sophisticated syndicates operating in remote areas of the country. — (c) 2022 Bloomberg LP

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