South African Air Force gets new upgraded Rooivalk combat support helicopters

The original Rooivalk was designed as "an attack helicopter and tank killer" to meet the needs of SA Defence Force as it existed in the 1980s, explains Sadik. The changing role of the SANDF, which is now primarily engaged in mandated peacekeeping missions, meant that aircraft systems had to be adapted to meet the new requirements effectively.

Last week, the South African Air Force (SAAF) received its first upgraded delivery of Denel Aviation CSH2A Rooivalk Mk I Block 1F combat support helicopters for operational duties.   In development since March 1984, the rotorcraft, the first of 11, is of the operational baseline and marks the end of the long-running Project Impose.

The indigenously-built attack helicopter was handed over to the Chief of SA Air Force, Lt Gen Carlo Gagiano, at Denel’s facility in Kempton Park on April 1.  The handover was the “culmination of 25 years of research, development and high-technology manufacturing,” said Chief Executive Officer of Denel, Talib Sadik.  The modernized helicopter, designated Rooivalk Mark 1, had undergone rigorous flight testing and evaluation program since November 2010.

The evaluation included day and night flight operations, target identification and tracking, cannon firing, and evaluation of the secure communications modes and self-protection features, Denel said.  The trial also included the test firing of an upgraded Mokopa anti-armour guided missile from the helicopter’s platform. Live test firing of the missile from Rooivalk was conducted in January this year.

During the retrofit programme, all 11 SAAF production Rooivalk aircraft will be brought up to the Mark 1 standard, Denel said. The programme includes the significant remanufacturing of certain gearbox mounting components that were found to be out of specification on a number of aircraft, it said.

The SAAF will deploy the first five of its 11 helicopters at its 16 Squadron, based in Bloemfontein. The remaining six will be completed and ready for deployment later this year, the aircraft manufacturer said.

South Africa began production of the AH-2 Rooivalk in 1984 and the helicopter took to the skies for the first time in 1990. Below is a video on the Rooivalk in motion.

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