The Buzz

South Africa Is Building Its Very Own Counter-Insurgency Plane

South Africa Paramount Group is showing off its new MWARI “SMART” intelligence, reconnaissance and precision strike aircraft in Abu Dhabi this month.

The new indigenously aircraft is a weaponized development of the company’s AHRLAC reconnaissance plane—which was supposed to combine the best attributes of an attack helicopter with a scout plane. Indeed, the MWARI is built around a high wing and a ‘pusher’ propeller to provide clear all-round visibility for its two crewmembers and the installed sensor package.

Designed for the low-cost market, the MWARI “SMART” offers capabilities normally found on much more expensive warplane for a fraction of the cost. ““It presents a highly sophisticated airborne command and control center packed with the latest and most advanced sensors, enabling intelligence gathering, electronic intercept, real-time on-board data analysis, and day and night surgical strike capability to respond to a wide variety of threats, all in one aircraft,” Ivor Ichikowitz, founder and executive chairman of Paramount Group, said in a statement. “What the MWARI offers is the ability to gather intelligence, interpret it, relay data, coordinate operations and attack opportunity targets as appropriate, whilst operating from remote strips in harsh conditions. Our program of continuous development is proving these capabilities in some of the harshest environments in the world.”

To operate from those harsh conditions, the MWARI has Short Take-Off and Landing Capability (STOL) to operate from almost any airstrip in almost any conditions. The Paramount Group is also partnering with Boeing to continue development work on the original AHRLAC aircraft. Boeing is developing its own integrated mission system that supports ISR and light strike capabilities for the aircraft.

According to the Paramount Group, the key features of the MWARI are as follows:

-Built in electro optical sensors and electronic intelligence gathering equipment

-Real-time time data fusion and on-board analysis of intelligence and targeting intelligence

- Seamless communication and coordination of selected information to Command & Control Centers, other airborne platforms and ground forces

- A conformal mission bay for rapid integration of intelligence gathering equipment

- Precision strike capability with surgical accuracy, limiting collateral damage associated with bombs

-Twenty Six hard points for electronic targeting pods, communications, self protection systems and precision targeted munitions

- Day and night operations from rough and unprepared landing strips

- All round and forward visibility, even with night vision goggles

- Extended mission range and long loiter times

- Extreme low operating cost

It’s unclear if the MWARI will eventually find a buyer, but a low-cost counter-insurgency plane could be useful to many nations. Indeed, the UAE has found success flying such mission in a modified Air Tractor crop-duster, there is no reason a dedicated counter-insurgency plane could not find a market niche—especially with the backing of a company like Boeing.

Dave Majumdar is the defense editor for The National Interest. You can follow him on Twitter: @davemajumdar.

Image Credit: Creative Commons.