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See South Africa's New Multi-Mission Combat Plane in Action


A drone, attack helicopter, and prop plane all in one.

When you think new combat planes, the U.S., Russia, and China come to mind. But for the first time in decades, South Africa has entered the world of aerial defense production.

Meet the AHRLAC, short for Advanced High Performance Reconnaissance Light Aircraft.

It's a far cry from a MiG-29 or an F-35. But that's the point. The AHRLAC was designed to be simple, cheap, and effective. It's a homegrown, all-African made defense product intended to address needs of countries on the continent. It is being marketed as a dual use civilian/military craft, with humanitarian, military, and reconnaissance roles.

A full tank of gas gives it 7 hours in the sky, which makes it well suited to search and rescue, border patrol, and homeland security functions as well. While it is light and small enough to fill the role of a drone, it is a manned vehicle. This negates the need for advanced electronics and simplifies maintenance.

For developing countries with vast areas of land and hundreds of miles of border, jets and helicopters are generally too expensive and difficult to maintain. That's precisely the market the Ahrlac is going after.

At a estimated price tag of $10 million dollars, the Ahrlac is set to be cheaper than combat helicopters and more versatile than light-weight prop planes. The relatively inexpensive price tag, coupled with its broad mission set, has its developers hoping for sales beyond the African continent, according to the WSJ, to include:

"Potential sales in Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. [Manufacturers] Paramount and Aerosud say they have received interest from potential customers but decline to say from whom."

The Ahrlac will be one of the first production aircraft to come out of South Africa since the Rooivaalk attack helicopter in the 1980's. It's success could spur countries other than the major arms manufacturers to fill niche defense needs with specifically tailored, innovative products.

Watch the promotional video below from Paramount Group, manufacturer of the Ahrlac:

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