With all the talk about the LAS contract and the AT-6′s demise as a competitor, maybe the USAF is looking in completely the wrong place for it’s LAS solution. The Paramount Group’s Armed High-Performance Reconnaissance Light Aircraft (AHRLAC) is being built specifically for the missions and the kinds of operators that the LAS concept has in mind. The aircraft may just be a real and cost effective competitor to the Super Tucano when it comes counter insurgency operations. Further, it is a clean sheet design built specifically for the light attack and recon role, not a 20-year-old trainer type aircraft design that has been adapted for the mission.
Some interesting notes on the AHRLAC:
-It packs an INTERNAL 20mm cannon, as opposed the much less capable twin 50 calibers that the Tucano packs
-It accomplished the same mission with much less horsepower while using the common and reliable PT-6 turboprop engine
-Although it looks much smaller than the AT-6 or Tucano it is actually very similar in size. It’s deceivingly large bubble canopy, that covers it’s elevated crew stations and zero-zero ejection seats, give it’s aircrew an almost helicopter quality view outside the cockpit reminiscent of the OV-10 Branco. It would seem that this large, slanted canopy and the AHRLAC’s fork tailed design make the aircraft appear almost like an ultralight to the eye.
-It’s high wing design is optimized for rough field operations and easy loading of munitions
-The AHRLAC is built to be very affordable and maintainable with rudimentary logistic support
-It will also be offered in a sea control variant complete with FLIR and advanced radar. The baseline AHRLAC is optimized for light attack, armed escort, recon, forward air control, anti-terror operations, border patrol, anti-narcotics, anti-piracy and general homeland security surveillance operations.
If the cost, performance and capability figures stack up against the LAS competition why not give the AHRLAC a shot? If it succeeds in testing it may just end up being the go to tool for nations who are fighting their own internal battles or just need basic precision targeting and surveillance capabilities at the very lowest cost. In other words, if a countries primary threats do not have fast jet capabilities why spend tens of thousands of dollars per hour flying a fast jets? The whole light attack concept is extremely relevant today and there is no doubt that the battle proven Tucano or even the AT-6 could get the job done, but the AHRLAC may represent a cutting edge and more cost effective solution for this demanding mission set. For counties poor and rich alike, precision targeting, persistant surveillance and attack capabilities delivered at a fraction of the cost of today’s UAV’s or other less than ideal manned fast jet or helicopter platforms may be just around the corner.