Denel Aeronautics is still receiving international interest in its Rooivalk attack helicopter, with consistent enquiries for a number of years.
Since around 2015, Denel has been promoting the upgrade of the Rooivalk (primarily for the South African Air Force), and development of a next-generation Rooivalk Mk II for foreign clients. Interest in the locally manufactured helicopter soared after successful deployment with the United Nations Force Intervention Brigade in the Democratic Republic of Congo in late 2013.
Support came from the South African government as the South African Air Force (SAAF) recognised a need for a midlife upgrade as a result of known obsolescence. Future Rooivalk upgrades would introduce new modern avionics, update the weapon system and increase reproducibility. The next generation Rooivalk would feature better sights, improved firepower, greater payload and better survivability, amongst other improvements.
Denel has been seeking partners and clients to proceed with the development of a new generation Rooivalk, which could be manufactured in client countries. Denel estimated that it would take only four years to put the Rooivalk Mk II into service, including the development of prototypes, establishment of production, and production and assembly for launch customers.
As part of the revitalised Rooivalk programme, Denel in 2016 fired several Mokopa anti-tank missiles from the aircraft as part of weapon type certification. However, further test firings are still required and would form part of the upgrade of the aircraft.
At the moment the Rooivalk is just fitted with 70 mm Forges Zeebrugge (FZ) rockets and a 20 mm cannon. However, in 2015 an FZ laser-guided rocket was test fired from the Rooivalk, giving accuracy of less than a metre from the target centre at 4-5 km.
The Rooivalk’s 20 mm F2 cannon is undergoing reliability improvement in a joint effort between Denel, the SAAF and Armscor.
Mike Kgobe, the CEO of Denel Aeronautics, told defenceWeb that although the SAAF has very little money at the moment due to the small defence budget allocation, there are “pockets of activity” with the Rooivalk platform, including the Argos II sight installation (showcased in 2018 to demonstrate what is possible) and cannon reliability upgrade which would benefit an upgraded Rooivalk or life extension programme. “There isn’t a huge budget but we do see pockets of activity. Some funds have been allocated,” Kgobe said.
In terms of international interest, Kgobe told defenceWeb that “yes, there still is interest in the platform. Right through from 2016 we continue to have enquiries and interest in the platform, which is encouraging to us…there is still interest in the Rooivalk.”