The Denel Aviation CSH-2A Rooivalk combat support helicopter will be released to operational service “within the next eight months” when the first five fully-certified locally-designed and manufactured combat support helicopters will be handed over to the South African Air Force.
Major General Otto Schür (Ret), Denel’s Group Executive: Technical says five baseline Rooivalk helicopters will be handed over for operational duties to the SAAF’s 16 Squadron in Bloemfontein by no later than the end of March next year. “The remaining six aircraft will be completed and ready for deployment soon after,” says Schür.
This will be the culmination of the Rooivalk project that started its design phase in 1984 and had its first flight already in April 1990. Schür says Denel has received a directive from Armscor informing it that an earlier moratorium on new orders to complete the Rooivalk acquisition programme has now been lifted.
The announcement follows similar news from Brigadier General Norman Minne, the Director Air Force Acquisition in the Defence Materiel Division of the Defence Secretariat last month. Project Impose – the Rooivalk programme – had cost taxpayers at least R8.1 billion in research, development and production costs.
The air force acquisitions director said the Rooivalk fleet was grounded in November “due to some specific issues regarding the engineering support of the aircraft”. The aircraft was notably absent from the massive air defence effort to safeguard the June-July soccer World Cup and did not feature in this February’s SA Army airborne capability Exercise Young Eagle, as is usually the case.
Denel Aviation, based in Kempton Park, was responsible for the final modifications to the helicopters to improve its safety and reliability, upgrade the accuracy of its weapons systems and to complete all outstanding certification flight testing and subsequent documentary evidence to apply for a full military type certificate at the Cabinet-agreed deployment baseline.
The original Rooivalk was designed as “an attack helicopter and tank killer” to meet the needs of SA Defence Force as it existed in the 1980s, explains Schür. The changing role of the SANDF, which is now primarily engaged in mandated peacekeeping missions meant that aircraft systems had to be adapted to meet the new requirements effectively. “Rooivalk is now a modern, sophisticated, combat support helicopter, ready to be used by the SANDF in any of its potential deployed operations,” he says.
The baselined Rooivalk will be on public display at AAD 2010, the Africa Aerospace and Defence Show held at Air Force Base Ysterplaat in Cape Town next week. From there the helicopters will be subjected to an accelerated flying programme of some 200 hours that is scheduled to commence by mid-October 2010 from the SAAF test facility at AFB Overberg in the southern Cape. In preparation for this phase and planned release of aircraft to 16 Squadron Denel Aviation will also be supporting the SAAF with the training of flight and ground crews to regain the required competencies to operate and maintain Rooivalk.
Schür says two helicopters have been completed to the technical baseline as agreed with the SAAF, Department of Defence and Armscor. During the intermediate moratorium on new orders Denel completed the final modification and certification process through own funding, thus to ensure accelerated service delivery once the expected positive decision on the programme was to be made.
An important part of the project is that Denel Aviation will be fully responsible for the establishment of the deeper-level support capabilities that would be required to sustain flying operations for at least five years, secure an adequate pool of spares on instruction of the DoD/Armscor and to take responsibility for all maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) work done on the Rooivalk fleet through a formal support contract that must be secured before end-March 2011. “As design authority and original equipment manufacturer we will ensure that the Rooivalk remains fully operational throughout its assigned life,” says Schür.