Now in its fifth year of deployment with the UN Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a pair of Rooivalk combat support helicopters notched up a first when manned by all-black crews on an escort mission.
The South African designed and manufactured rotary-wing aircraft was first seen in the central African country in the customary all-white UN colours late in 2013. Three aircraft are deployed at a time on rotation from 16 Squadron at AFB Bloemspruit.
“Mission commander on the first aircraft was Major Tlhalefo Moroole with pilot Major Msawenkosi Majova. The second Rooivalk was flown by Major Mashaole Ramoipone with Lieutenant Sipho Mahlangu his weapon systems operator,” said Operation Mistral public information officer, Captain Siboniso Maseko.
“The third aircraft in the formation was a SAAF Oryx. The escort tasking in South Kivu province saw the aircraft successfully complete a six hour mission.”
In addition to regular escort flights, the Rooivalk flies missions in support of ground troops taking on rebel groups in the eastern DRC as part of UN efforts to stabilise the DRC. While not officially noted by the SAAF, the performance of Rooivalk has been welcomed by senior UN officials as well as senior military officers serving with the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), part of MONUSCO, the UN’s single largest peacekeeping and peace support mission.
Speaking ahead of the Rooivalk deployment to DRC, Lieutenant General Derrick Mgwebi, then SANDF Joint Operations Chief and subsequently MONUSCO force commander, said the UN had been made “fully aware” of Rooivalk’s capabilities.