South African company Paramount receives orders for Mwari planes

Two customers placed nine orders

Paramount plans to sell mini-factories to its customers

PRETORIA, September 21 (Reuters)South African private defense firm Paramount Aerospace Industries has received orders for nine of its Mwari jets – the first domestically designed and built military aircraft in nearly two decades, the company announced on Wednesday.

The first propeller-driven reconnaissance, surveillance and precision strike 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 Mwari’s first two clients. But the company said it was targeting military customers in developing countries in Africa and Asia for sales.

“We have tremendous interest around the world,” said Paramount Group founder Ivor Ichikowitz. “Our biggest challenge right now is going to be getting production capacity in place fast enough to meet demand.”

The defense sector once played a major role in South Africa’s economy – a legacy of the racist apartheid regime’s need to produce locally due to embargoes – and had one of the largest non-aligned arms industries. diverse in the world.

More recently, however, it has suffered from a global defense spending cut and a weak domestic market.

The Rooivalk – an attack helicopter developed by public defense company Denel in the 1980s – was the last military aircraft designed and manufactured in South Africa. But it never reached full-scale production, and manufacturing 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 counter-insurgency operations.

A base model costs around $10 million, with additional options such as high-tech optical modules, electronic intelligence gathering and night vision.

To date, Paramount has invested around 750 million rand ($42 million) in the development of the aircraft.

Ichikowitz said the plan is ultimately to sell modular manufacturing facilities allowing customers to produce their own versions of the Mwari locally. Paramount already uses a similar system to build ground vehicles all over the world.

“Paramount pioneered the portable production concept 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 produce this aircraft.”

($1 = R17.7103)

(Reporting by Joe Bavier Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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