Two more have recently been handed over to the South African Air Force. This brings the total of upgraded combat support helicopters that can be operationally deployed to eight – with the final three to be ready in the coming months.
Mike Kgobe, the CEO of Denel Aviation, the company that designed and manufactured the Rooivalk says all the delivered aircraft have been upgraded to the required deployment baseline as determined by Cabinet.
Mr Kgobe says Denel Aviation is receiving excellent feedback from the SAAF – and especially from 16 Squadron at Air Force Base Bloemspruit – where the first batch of helicopters has now been flying continuously for more than a year.
The aircraft have already been deployed in joint military exercises conducted by the SANDF and have proven their value in a combat support role. “The Rooivalk is flying on a daily basis and both Denel Aviation and the SAAF are very satisfied with its performance,” says Mr Kgobe.
At the Air Force Day Parade earlier this year, the Chief of the SAAF, Lt Gen Carlo Gagiano said the Rooivalk “is a system we cannot be without.” If the Air Force is called on to perform peace-keeping operations the Rooivalk is “the first aircraft I would send,” he said.
“This is a product that the South African public can be proud of – locally designed, locally manufactured and already successfully deployed by the Air force,” says Mr Kgobe.
Dewald Steyn, the project manager: Rooivalk, at Denel Aviation says the performance of the aircraft is being closely monitored and evaluated from a design and development perspective. The helicopter has exceeded the expectations and no major maintenance or repair work has thus far been required.
As design authority and original equipment manufacturer Denel Aviation is responsible to ensure that the Rooivalk remains fully operational throughout its assigned life.
Denel Aviation is continuing with the upgrading of the final three of the 11 aircraft in the Rooivalk fleet. At the same time design and development work has already started on upgraded versions of the helicopter – as part of the company’s “post-1F programme.”
The objective is to fit the Rooivalk with extended and long-range fuel tanks that will significantly increase its range of operations enabling the SAAF to deploy the helicopter over longer distances, says Mr Steyn.
The Rooivalk project started its design phase in 1984 and had its first flight in April 1990. It attracted world-wide attention for its unique design and capabilities and have been displayed at major international air shows in England, Dubai, Malaysia and Cape Town.
Denel Aviation was responsible for the final modifications to the helicopter to improve its safety and reliability and accuracy of its weapons systems and to complete all outstanding certification flight testing to enable application for a full military type certificate at the Cabinet-agreed deployment baseline.