ALONG A WINDING road down the edge of an airport near Pretoria, South Africa’s capital, is an aeronautical version of a Mad Max world. An old UN cargo plane rusts in a field. Jammed up against fences are aeroplanes of various vintages and states of disassembly. “Airheads” (aviation enthusiasts) scrounge for parts to get their machines aloft again.
Just around the corner is one of the most modern aircraft assembly plants anywhere in the world. In it stand two brand new prototypes of the Advanced High Performance Reconnaissance Light Aircraft, or AHRLAC, designed to fill a gap in the market for a rugged aeroplane jam-packed with sensors that can patrol borders, look for poachers and drop guided weapons on insurgents.
This is not the first military aircraft designed in South Africa. During apartheid the country circumvented an arms embargo by building its own attack helicopters. But these planes are a private venture aimed at a niche in the export market. The firm that makes them, AHRLAC Holdings, has had some early successes. On the production line a wing that will be mounted on the first aircraft for export is taking shape. The factory is preparing to churn out between two and four planes a month, though it will not say who has ordered them, or in what quantities.Read Article On: The Economist