South Africa's Mwari aircraft could be the next light attack plane picked by the US Air Force (USAF) in its ongoing competition to choose its next fighter. It is the first warplane to be completely designed and built in Africa.

Renamed Bronco II for the American market, the Mwari was originally known as the Advanced High Performance, Reconnaissance Light Air Craft and was designed as an inexpensive and light fighter for the African continent. It was developed by two South African companies, Aerosud and the Paramount Group, reports Popular Mechanics.

The developers partnered with Boeing in 2016 to expand the Mwari's capabilities and develop an integrated mission system after it first took flight in 2014. The Mwari focusses on intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), notes the report. It is, however, also likely to operate the GPS-enabled and Boeing developed "small diameter bomb".

The Mwari or Bronco II is a push propeller aircraft and has one Pratt & Whitney PT6-66B engine that makes 950 horsepower. Apart from a crew of two, it can carry about 1,760 pounds of payload and stay in the air for 7.5 hours, according to the report. With a top speed of 272 knots and a ceiling of 31,000ft, it can take off and land in a short strip 1,800ft long.

The Bronco II is being entered by the South African companies in the USAF's OA-X competition, which is looking for a "jack-of-all-trades" styled aircraft that can not only provide ISR, but also close air support in regions of conflict that are deemed low-intensity. The USAF wants 300 examples of such a fighter and the report mentions that the frontrunners of this race so far are the Textron Aviation AT-6 and the Sierra Nevada/Embraer A-29 Super Tucano.

The America-ready version of the Mwari, the Bronco II, is so named because it takes after the original OV-10 Bronco, not just in design, but also in its versatility. It was used extensively by the USAF during Operation Desert Storm and did everything from ISR to serving as a low flying gunship to support ground troops. Incidentally, the Bronco was also made by Boeing.

Meanwhile, the debate over the re-winging of the much loved A-10 Warthogs is continuing. The light, heavily armoured fighter, one of the service's favourite aircraft could be facing retirement.