The South African Air Force (SAAF) Museum has acquired two new exhibits that symbolise the technological prowess of the South African aeronautical industry in the late twentieth century.
First to arrive at the Museum at Zwartkop, Centurion, on 11 February was an Aerospatiale SA-330L Puma (serial 190). The medium-transport Puma was a stalwart of the Air Force from the 1970s until retirement in the 1990s. This particular aircraft was acquired by Denel for use as a XTP-1 Oryx testbed. The Oryx is a locally upgraded and improved version of the Puma. With the introduction of the Oryx into the Air Force in the mid-1990’s, the last of the Puma fleet were finally retired in 1997. Having served duty for the Oryx development, Puma 190 was then converted for use as a Rooivalk Avionics Systems Flight Test Vehicle.
The following Monday saw the arrival of the Atlas Rooivalk ADM, the second prototype of this combat-support helicopter. The Rooivalk project started its design phase in 1984 and had its first flight in April 1990. The original Rooivalk was designed as an anti-tank and attack helicopter to meet the needs of the SA Defence Force as it existed in the 1980s. However, the changing role of the defence force meant that the systems had to be adapted and the Rooivalk has evolved into a combat support helicopter. Although the Air Force had taken delivery of 12 aircraft (one crashed), the first five aircraft that were upgraded to the minimum “Block 1F” deployment baseline standard were only handed over in March 2011.
The SAAF Museum is now able to boast a range of helicopters that covers the development of combat helicopters in South Africa. The Atlas XH-1 Alpha, which has been on display for a number of years, was a proof-of-concept tandem-seat attack helicopter. Although never intended as a serious production aircraft, the Alpha can be considered as the genesis of attack helicopter design in South Africa.
The new exhibits are expected to go on display soon.
Further information on the SAAF Museum can be found on this website at http://www.saairforce.co.za/the-airforce/history/saaf-museum.