Bronco II, the special variant of the South African-made Ahrlac multi-role aircraft have been selected by the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) to participate in the Armed Overwatch flight demonstration.
The Bronco II will compete against the Textron Aviation Defence AT-6E Wolverine, L3 AT-802U Sky Warden, MAG Aerospace MC-208 Guardian and Sierra Nevada Corporation M28/C-145 Wily Coyote.
The Bronco II is being pitched to the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) for its low intensity combat warfare requirements (LICW), under the Armed Overwatch Programme (AOP).
SOCOM plans to procure 75 cheap aircraft for close air support (CAS), Precision airstrikes, and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions to support US Special Forces in counter insurgency operations.
According to SOCOM, “The Armed Overwatch acquisition programme aims to provide Special Operations Forces with deployable, affordable and sustainable manned aircraft systems capable of executing close-air support, precision strike and armed intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance requirements in austere and permissive environments for use in operations against violent extremist organizations.”
To clinch the contract, the Ahrlac/Bronco II will have to compete and win against the AC-208 (armed Cessna Caravan turboprop), M28/C-145 (a new armed version of the Skytruck twin-engine light transport), AT-802U (armed version of the cropduster) and AT-6E Wolverine trainer/light attack aircraft.
Although the Sierra Nevada/Embraer A-29 Super Tucano competed at the early stages, the aircraft failed to make the cut and was removed from the contest.
SOCOM’s Armed Overwatch programme was halted in November last year, but flight trials and demostrations have been resumed after a review.
SOCOM budgetted $101 million for the first batch with another $10 million per year for the next seven years. A May 14 announcement by SOCOM indicates that the command had also awarded a $19 million five fixed-price prototype project other transaction agreements (OTAs) to five companies for prototype demonstrations in mid-2021.
Each company will fly four demonstration flights between 14 June and 23 July at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.
If a prototype meets the requirements, the company could be requested to provide a proposal for a follow-on production award later in 2022.
Drones are disallowed in the contest on the grounds that they require a larger footprint than manned aircraft.
Bronco II is a variant of the Advanced High-Performance Reconnaissance Light Aircraft (AHRLAC), it is a light reconnaissance and counter-insurgency aircraft made by AHRLAC Holdings, a joint venture between the Paramount Group and Aerosud in South Africa.
Paramount Group started designing the AHRLAC in 2009, it was later rebranded in 2018 in order to market the aircraft to the US Air Force which was seeking to procure light attack aircraft at the time.
Leidos, Paramount Group USA and Vertex Aerospace collaborated to pursue the Armed Overwatch contract with the Bronco II intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and light attack aircraft.
Leidos will act as the prime contractor while the US subsidiary of Paramount Group will serve as the sub-contractor and will provide the Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO), Vertex Aerospace (formerly a business unit of L3 Technologies) specializes in offering maintenance, life support, aerostructures fabrication, and aircraft integration services, will also serve as the sub-contractor.
Under Leidos, the Bronco II will be manufactured in Crestview, Florida, and is designed to meet the specific needs of US Special Operations Command. Additional partners for the Bronco II platform include Leonardo DRS, Dynetics, Beast Code, Fulcrum Concepts, and Concord XXI aviation flight training.
In July 2018, the Mwari ISR and precision ground attack/strike aircraft secured its first customer. Paramount Group Executive Chairman Ivor Ichikowitz announced this during a press briefing at the Farnborough International Airshow on 18 July.
however, Paramount Aerospace Holdings, the subsidiary of Paramount Group reportedly shut down its operations in 2019 due to funding issues.
Although, in July 2018, Paramount Group Executive Chairman Ivor Ichikowitz announced that the Mwari has secured a launch customer and has begun rolling off the production line, however, till date the launch customer is still unknown.