Denel Dynamics is eyeing the export market for its Mokopa heavyweight anti-armour missile, originally developed for the CSH2A Rooivalk attack helicopter.
But Denel’s recent annual report shows that the missile will no longer immediately be fitted to the helicopter, in terms of a Cabinet decision to operationalise the rotorcraft for peace support duty but with a “revised functionality within the existing allocated financial resources.
“The aircraft will have a scaled down weapons system and should be delivered by September 2008, failing which the Group will incur penalties,” the report says.
“Denel is committed to meeting the milestones as directed by Cabinet. However, it will require the full support of Armscor and the DoD to execute the revised mandate. Once achieved, this technical baseline should be maintained for a period of five years.”
Denel Dynamics CEO Jan Wessels says the scaled down weapons suite comprises under-stub wing rocket pods and a chin-mounted 20mm cannon. He says a peace support variant of the helicopter does not immediately require a guided missile option.
“The Mokopa is a conventional warfare weapon. For peace support cruder and more basic weapons suffice. The Mokopa is therefore not the highest priority for the Rooivalk programme.”
Mokopa on track
Wessels says the development of the missile continues apace, however. “Development will be finished before the end of our current financial year (March 2009). But when and how it will be integrated into the Rooivalk depends on the SA Air Force.
Meanwhile the company is seeking export customers for the weapon and Wessels says it may have found some. “We are seeking export opportunities and are talking to a number of helicopter integrators including a European manufacturer who is in an advanced stage of considering us for one of their clients.”
The Dynamics CEO would not be drawn on the identity of the client, but specialised defence optronics company Ansys recently reported it had won a R20 million subcontract from Turkish company Aselsan for equipment for that country`s attack helicopter programme. Turkey late last year [placed an order for Agusta A129 Mangusta helicopters in preference to the Rooivalk, the other helicopter on the shortlist.
Ansys was part of the Rooivalk programme.
Development work on the Rooivalk started in March 1984 under the Air Force programme name Project Impose. Twenty-four years later many agree it has indeed been an imposition on the SA Air Force and on Denel.
First flight was achieved by 11 February 1990 and delivery of the first of 12 platforms followed on 7 May 1998. But budget cuts have delayed the operationalising of the helicopter by over a decade and even today Project Impose is not yet complete.
The annual report says the last delivery was “during 2004” and was “undertaken with concessions on certain work that was outstanding in terms of the original contract. Denel was also contracted to provide technical support for a period of 30 years from date of delivery.”
The report adds that the “primary challenges facing Denel in meeting its obligations are linked to the extended period over which the programme has been executed particularly in light of technological advancements made in the aviation industry. The required skills base to complete the final technical milestones has been eroded substantially, thus adding further pressure on the delivery timelines linked to the programme.
“In the 2004/05 financial year, Denel raised a provision of R 680 million in respect of estimated future costs to complete the programme to the original contractual terms and conditions, as well as to qualify the aircraft to meet international aviation standards.
“Expenditure over the years has been allocated against this provision and as at 31 March 2008, the balance thereof amounted to R385 million. As a standard procedure, management reviewed the estimated costs to completion, including the processes and assumptions used to fulfil the obligations under the contract and its related contract variation orders at year-end. As a result, the provision was adjusted to account for cost escalations over the period amounting to R108 million.
“At the same time, the Group, in discussions with the customer, took a decision that certain service and support functionalities would not be undertaken. The cost associated with this work amounted to R150 million.
“In light of the presently assigned life of the Rooivalk system, the existing contractual terms and conditions will require revision. As with any integrated electro-mechanical system, latent defects could materialise which may require remedial action by the original designer and manufacturer. In the recent past, Denel has rectified certain latent defects in subsystems. However, no agreement has been reached regarding the possible future risks, Denel has proposed to the relevant stakeholders that this risk be borne by the customer.
Discussions are underway with regards to the delivery timeframes, revised baseline and the responsibility for the liability relating to latent defects.”