Denel has delivered a upgraded Rooivalk mk1 combat support helicopter, to the South African Air Force (SAAF) at the company’s facility in Kempton Park for operational duties.

The original Rooivalk was designed as an attack helicopter and tank destroyer but has been adapted to new roles due to the changing role of the SA Defence Force (SANDF), according to the air force.

SAAF chief lieutenant General Carlo Gagiano said the helicopter has been locally designed, manufactured and tested and is ready for deployment by the air force.

“The Rooivalk will contribute significantly to the ability of the SAAF to fulfil its mandate in peacekeeping operations and to support the future deployment of South African soldiers,” he added.

The upgraded aircraft was tested at the air force’s test flight and development centre (TFDC), which include day and night flight operations, target identification and tracking, cannon firing, and evaluation of the secure communications modes and self-protection features.

The first five helicopters will be operational at 16 Squadron, which is based in Bloemfontein, and the remaining six will be completed and ready for deployment later this year.