Based on the weird South African AHRLAC aircraft (Advanced High-Performance Reconnaissance Light Aircraft) the Bronco II was launched today in the US market.
On Feb. 21, the newly created Bronco Combat System (BCS) USA announced the launch of the Bronco II, a two-crew C4ISR and precision strike aircraft, based on the South Africa’s first indigenous turboprop aircraft designed AHRLAC (Advanced High-performance Reconnaissance and Surveillance Aircraft), developed by a joint venture between the Paramount Group and Aerosud.
The name of the new light aircraft was inspired by the OV-10 Bronco, the U.S. aircraft developed in the 1960s as a special aircraft for counter-insurgency (COIN) combat and used today by the U.S. Special Operations Command to hunt ISIS militants in Iraq.
According to the BCS press release, the Bronco II is “capable of carrying a wide range of weapons, sensors and systems in extended airborne mission operations. It is a unique platform that is built for purpose; uses a pusher propeller and has an open system architecture allowing for the rapid incorporation of current and emerging systems, setting a new standard for mission flexibility and adaptability.
AHRLAC was first unveiled in September 2011 at the Aerosud manufacturing facility on the eastern side of AFB Waterkloof. The “odd drone alternative” made its first flight in July 2014 and by September 2016, the prototype had accumulated 250 flying hours during tests, as well as actual deployments to the South African border and to neighbouring Botswana where the aircraft conducted operationally representative trials, including landing on a range of surfaces such as compact sand and gravel. According to an AIN article, the aircraft was also flown on an ad hoc trial during the civil unrest in South Africa.
In March 2016, Boeing announced that it had entered into a development partnership with Paramount with the aim of producing a militarized version of the Ahrlac.
This is what DefenseNews reported back then:
“Boeing will develop an integrated mission system for the aircraft enabling ISR and light strike missions for the AHRLAC safety & security, and military variants. This militarized version will be known as Mwari, a name taken from South African mythology regarded by some tribes as an omnipotent, all-seeing being. The cost of the aircraft was estimated to be under $10 million by [Paramount Group’s Executive Chairman Ivor] Ichikowitz in 2011, however he was not able to state a price of the aircraft with the integrated Boeing systems.
Today’s press release from BCS does not mention the previous deal with Boeing. Paramount Group media contacts have not yet replied to an email we have sent asking for clarification. We will update the stoty once we hear from them.
Here’s what the rest of the release says about the Bronco II aircraft (highlights mine):
“Paramount Group International Chairman Ivor Ichikowitz said, “This aircraft is a real game-changer for the warfighter. It is unique in that it has been designed specifically as a light attack and ISR platform from the onset. This is not simply an armed variant of a civilian crop-duster or a modified training aircraft. Every inch of this aircraft is designed for purpose – specifically for the kind of asymmetrical warfare that sophisticated military forces are now being asked to conduct. These missions demand rapidly deployable, hybrid ISR and close air support capabilities for which no other platform has been specifically designed.”
AHRLAC, the platform upon which the BRONCO II is based, is already in production using the latest advanced aerospace manufacturing technologies. The fact that the aircraft is 100% digitally designed makes the ability to industrialize the BRONCO II in its totality in the United States a reality. Work has started on establishing a manufacturing base that will enable the full production of the airframe and mission systems integration in the United States.
Ichikowitz went on to say “BRONCO II was designed with the US market in mind; it contains significant American content and we are now excited to be able to commit to bringing full production of the aircraft home to the USA.”
The BRONCO II’s internal Interchangeable Multi-Mission System Bay (IMSB) allows a single airframe to be easily and rapidly re-configured to perform multiple roles, incorporating high-performance targeting sensors, network communication systems, precision weapons, an electronic self-protection suite, and mission planning systems.
The aircraft is a purpose-built, sophisticated airborne Find/Fix/Finish/Exploit/Analyze (F3EA) system able to operate for extended periods in remote theaters with minimal infrastructure and a small logistics and maintenance footprint. The BRONCO II operates at a fraction of the procurement and lifecycle cost of an aircraft with similar mission applications and capabilities.
Fulcrum Concepts LLC will lead weapons and system integration for BRONCO II. Fulcrum Concepts Co-Owner and President of Engineering Solutions Scott Richman said, “BRONCO II is the ultimate solution to the F3EA capability, a truly multi-role aircraft with real-time C4ISR perfectly suited to the kind of light attack requirements we are seeing coming out of the U.S. military forces and a number of other programs in the U.S. market. We are excited by the opportunity to be one of the lead partners in bringing this innovative capability to the United States.”
Dr. Paul Potgieter, the CEO of the Aerospace Development Corporation which designed the aircraft, stated: “This aircraft is a completely clean-sheet, next-generation design, using the latest CATIA and digital design systems specifically for digital production. Even the factory in which this aircraft is currently being produced embraces the innovative principles of the Fourth Industrial Revolution by emphasizing the use of rapid digital prototyping, laser additive and 3D printing, and a jig-less manufacturing approach.”
Bronco Combat Systems has been established as a US based entity which will bring the aircraft to the US end user. The founding partners are Paramount Group USA, Fulcrum Concepts LLC, and ADC, who designed the AHRLAC platform. Bronco Combat Systems are actively engaging with other domestic U.S. partners to scale the entity in both capability and reach.
“This is a very exciting time for us, our partners and future US customers who will benefit from the rapid fielding of the Bronco II and its unique capabilities. Discussions are underway with highly respected and experienced US suppliers for total supply chain management, mission software, and mission training.” added Ichikowitz.”
So, it seems that the new aircraft aims at the COIN/IW (Counterinsurgency/Irregular Warfare) missions where manned, low-cost turboprop aircraft are considered as essential to lower operational costs. The aircraft offers F3EA capabilities that are wanted these days (as the use of the Vietnam-era Broncos proves) to fill the gap between high-end combat planes and drones.
Image credit: BCS