Oryx upgrade to be completed in 2016

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The long-delayed upgrade of the Denel Aviation Oryx avionics and navigation system will only be completed in early 2016, four years later than originally planned.

Denel is on track to meet the newly agreed completion timeline of January 2016, the company said.
“Qualification and certification of the system upgrade has been completed. To date a total of ten aircraft have been modified of which some have been released to the customer for operational deployment, whilst others are due for scheduled services. A contract variation order addressing changes in timelines was received from the client,” Denel said.

The avionics upgrade is part of Project Drummer II, an extension of Project Drummer, initiated in 2006 for the mid-life upgrade of the Oryx helicopter, allowing them to serve to around 2020.

The R492 million fixed-price, fixed-term avionics and navigation upgrade contract was originally scheduled to be completed by June 2012, but “due to extended engineering and flight test efforts, the programme was delayed,” Denel said. A total of 38 aircraft are receiving the upgrades.

Part of the reason for the Oryx delay is that some analogue equipment was retained whilst new digital equipment was added, forcing Denel Aviation to produce an interface unit for the new equipment. Another setback was the turmoil at Advanced Technologies and Engineering (ATE), which was one of the subsystems suppliers for the Oryx upgrade project. After entering business rescue, ATE was taken over by Paramount to become Paramount Advanced Technologies last year.

Denel added that the Oryx programme accounted for revenue of R30 million during the 2013/14 financial year and that “the provision for onerous contracts in respect of this project is R155 million.”



The Oryx first flew on September 18, 1987 and deliveries commenced in May 1989. Denel Aviation assembled 51 aircraft of which 38 are believed to remain in service. The Oryx replaced the Aerospatiale SA330 Puma in South African Air Force service. The helicopter forms the backbone of the Air Force’s rotary wing transport fleet and has been deployed overseas on peace support operations, such as to the Democratic Republic of Congo.