Ten Denel Rooivalk combat helicopters now ready for operations with SAAF

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Two more upgraded and operation-ready Rooivalk helicopters have been added to the South African Air Force by Denel Aviation, earlier this month. This brings the total of the locally developed combat support helicopters that are in service to 10.

Delivery of the last Rooivalk helicopter is imminent – with final pre-delivery flight testing being underway at Denel Aviation, the company said.

The seventh Africa Aerospace and Defence Exhibition (AAD) currently taking place at Air Force Base Waterkloof in Tshwane provided the background for the handover of this proudly South African helicopter. The Rooivalk will be flying throughout the AAD including the two days available for visits by the public, and two Rooivalks put on a spectacular display for delegates.
“This is a product that the South African public can be proud of – locally designed, locally manufactured and already successfully deployed by the Air Force,” said Mike Kgobe, the Chief Executive Officer of Denel Aviation.

The earlier helicopters have already been deployed in joint military exercises conducted by the SANDF and have proven their value in a combat support role. “The Rooivalk is flying on a daily basis and both Denel Aviation and the SAAF are very satisfied with its performance,” said Kgobe.

Denel Aviation said it was receiving excellent feedback from the SAAF – and especially from 16 Squadron at Air Force Base Bloemspruit – where the first batch of helicopters has now been flying continuously since April 2011.

At the Air Force Day Parade earlier this year, the outgoing Chief of the SAAF, Lt Gen Carlo Gagiano said the Rooivalk “is a system we cannot be without.” If the Air Force is called on to perform peace-keeping operations the Rooivalk is “the first aircraft I would send,” he said.

Dewald Steyn, the Project Manager: Rooivalk, at Denel Aviation said the performance of the aircraft is being closely monitored and evaluated from a design and development perspective. The helicopter has exceeded the expectations and no major maintenance or repair work has thus far been required.

As design authority and original equipment manufacturer Denel Aviation is responsible to ensure that the Rooivalk remains fully operational throughout its assigned life.

Denel Aviation has already started with design and development work on upgraded versions of the helicopter – as part of the company’s “post-1F programme.”

The objective is to fit the Rooivalk with extended and long-range fuel tanks that will significantly increase its range of operations enabling the SAAF to deploy the helicopter over longer distances, said Steyn.

The Rooivalk project started its design phase in 1984 and had its first flight in April 1990. Denel Aviation was responsible for the final modifications to the helicopter to improve its safety and reliability and accuracy of its weapons systems and to complete all outstanding certification flight testing to enable application for a full military type certificate at the Cabinet-agreed deployment baseline.