Paramount’s Mwari plane. Photo: Paramount
- Private South African defense company Paramount Aerospace Industries has received orders for nine of its Mwari aircraft.
- The Mwari is the first military aircraft to be designed and built in the country in almost two decades.
- The Rooivalk – a combat helicopter developed by state-owned Denel in the 1980s – was the last military aircraft to be designed and manufactured in South Africa.
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Private South African defense contractor Paramount Aerospace Industries has won orders for nine of its Mwari aircraft – the first military aircraft to be designed and built in the country in nearly two decades, the company said on Wednesday.
The first of the propeller-driven reconnaissance, surveillance and precision attack aircraft will be delivered this week, Paramount announced on the sidelines of the Africa Aerospace and Defense Show in Pretoria.
Paramount declined to name the first two customers for the Mwari. But the company said it is targeting military customers in developing countries in Africa and Asia.
“We have immense interest around the world,” said Paramount Group founder Ivor Ichikowitz. “Our biggest challenge at the moment will be to build up production capacity quickly enough to meet demand.”
The defense sector once played an important role in South Africa’s economy – a legacy of the racist apartheid regime’s need to manufacture locally due to embargoes – and boasted one of the most diversified non-aligned defense industries in the world.
More recently, however, it has suffered from global defense spending pressures and a weak domestic market.
The Rooivalk – an attack helicopter developed by state defense contractor Denel in the 1980s – was the last military aircraft to be designed and manufactured in South Africa. But it never reached mass production and production ended in the early 2000s.
Development of the Mwari began in 2010. Paramount markets it as a relatively low-cost alternative to expensive, high-maintenance military aircraft for surveillance, maritime patrol, and counterinsurgency operations.
A base model costs around $10 million, with add-on options like high-tech optical pods, electronic intelligence and night vision.
To date, Paramount has invested around R750 million in the development of the aircraft.
Ichikowitz said the plan is ultimately to sell modular manufacturing equipment that would allow customers to make their own versions of the Mwari locally. Paramount already uses a similar system to build land vehicles at locations around the world.
“Paramount pioneered the concept of portable production a few years ago,” Ichikowitz said. “What we have in South Africa is the first of the micro-factories that will eventually be built around the world to make this aircraft.