Rooivalk ready to deploy after upgrades completed


The South African Air Force (SAAF) has its full complement of Rooivalk combat support helicopters back on inventory after Denel Aviation returned the final aircraft following more than two years of work on Block 1F upgrades.

This week saw what Denel Aviation Chief Executive Mike Kgobe called the culmination of a 26 year partnership between Denel and the SAAF.
“We took this aircraft through all its stages – from design to manufacturing, upgrading and retrofitting – to the point where it will soon be deployed,” he said.

Only 12 of the locally designed and manufactured Rooivalks were ever built. The home-grown rotary-winged aircraft was originally a tank buster set for use in the Bush War. The Rooivalk was never deployed in this role and the end of hostilities and arrival of democracy in 1994 meant a rethink, after a number of unsuccessful attempts to market it internationally. One Rooivalk was written off in a crash some years ago, leaving just eleven in service with 16 Squadron.

Denel will continue to be involved with Rooivalk through on-going maintenance and repair services and provision of continued airworthiness engineering support to ensure the fleet of eleven remains mission ready.

Kgobe said the Rooivalk project was indicative of the symbiotic relationship between Denel Aviation and the SAAF. “We are always ready to provide technical and ground support to ensure operational readiness of the Air Force fleet.”

This relationship has been strengthened by an agreement which sees Denel Aviation continuing to deliver maintenance services, leading to continued airworthiness and the upkeep of air assets.
“This is a win-win situation for Denel and the SAAF resulting in retention of high-level critical skills, a focused service delivery and cost effectiveness for the SAAF,” he said.

The company recently received a “zero defect report” from the SAAF to confirm all 11 Rooivalk helicopters have been upgraded to block 1F baseline standard.

Denel Aviation is receiving good feedback from the SAAF – especially 16 Squadron at AFB Bloemspruit – where the first batch of revamped helicopters has been flying since April 2011.

Dewald Steyn, Rooivalk project manager, said aircraft performance was being closely monitored and evaluated from a design and development perspective.
“The helicopter has exceeded expectations and no major maintenance or repair work has thus far been required.”

The Rooivalk project started its design phase in 1984 and had its first flight in April 1990. It attracted world-wide attention for its design and capabilities and was displayed at international air shows in England, Dubai, Malaysia and Cape Town.

Denel Aviation was responsible for the final modifications – at least 130 per aircraft – to improve its safety and reliability and accuracy of its weapons systems and to complete all outstanding certification flight testing to enable the application for a full military type certificate at the Cabinet-agreed deployment baseline.

Immediate past SAAF Chief Lieutenant General Carlo Gagiano is on record as saying Rooivalk is one of the first aircraft he would deploy on continental peacekeeping and peace support missions.