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South Africa Firms Build Niche Plane

By PATRICK MCGROARTY in Centurion, South Africa and DANIEL MICHAELS in Brussels

Two South African companies are attempting to elbow their way into the global defense market with an unusual new aircraft developed on home soil.

Paramount Group and Aerosud Holdings Ltd. on Tuesday will unveil the Ahrlac, a compact plane that they say merges the capabilities of a drone, an attack helicopter and surveillance aircraft.

Paramount Group

Paramount Group and Aerosud Holdings will unveil their Ahrlac attack-and-surveillance plane, above, in South Africa on Tuesday.

"There's nothing like it in the marketplace," says Paul Potgieter, managing director of closely held Aerosud.

The Ahrlac—short for Advanced High Performance Reconnaissance Light Aircraft—aims to fill a niche left by less-versatile and more-expensive rivals. Most countries on the continent rely on modified cargo planes or turboprop fighters for surveillance work, but the Ahrlac is a multipurpose alternative that's marketed for perform military and civilian reconnaissance. It will cater to African governments involved in combat, peacekeeping and humanitarian work, he says.


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