The Denel CSH2A Rooivalk attack helicopter will make its operational debut in two months time when it will be among a range of SA Air Force assets deployed to safeguard the FIFA Confederations Cup.
Chief of the Air Force Lt Gen Carlo Gagiano says four to six of the rotorcraft, under development since 1984, are now ready for operational deployment.
“The focus is on ensuring the airspace is safe,” Gagiano says. He notes the SAAF will deploy a range of aircraft to safeguard stadiums during the two events and that “the Rooivalk will be an important one as will the [BAE systems Mk120] Hawk and [Saab JAS39C/D] Gripen.”
Gagiano adds that the helicopter is now also almost ready for deployment further afield.
“Obviously, when you deploy in peace missions, it has to be at the request of the UN… It is important we understand there will be a request from the UN. They will ask us ‘can you provide?`, and we will say ‘yes` or ‘no`. If it is yes, the main thing is that we provide Rooivalk or any other aircraft fully supported. Then you get reimbursed for the service you are delivering. If they are not fully supported, and you have unservicabilities, then they don`t pay you,” Gagiano explains.
“Fortunately our two [Denel M1] Oryx [medium utility helicopters] that are based in the DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo] are providing an excellent service and we are getting fully refunded for their activities there.”
Gagiano adds that SA was asked “some time ago” to provide Rooivalk to the UN. But at the time SA was not ready. “It was quite an extensive request, which was too much for us at the time to do.” Gagiano says before one provides any capability to the UN one must first be certain ‘you can in fact supply the equipment and troops and sustain them during operations.”
* fact file