Rooivalk helicopter

Denel Aviation has handed over the final domestically manufactured Rooivalk combat support helicopter under contract to the South African Air Force (SAAF).

Speaking during the handover ceremony, Denel Aviation CEO Mike Kgobe said acceptance of the last helicopter represents culmination of a 26 year partnership between the air force and the company.

As part of an agreement signed with the air force, the company will also ensure operational readiness of the Rooivalk fleet through provision of on-going maintenance and repair services, as well as continued airworthiness engineering support.

Kgobe said: "This is a win-win situation for both Denel and the SAAF which results in the retention of high-level critical skills, a focused service delivery and cost effectiveness for the SAAF."

"The helicopters will be used to conduct peacekeeping operations and in support of future deployment of South African soldiers."

A total of 12 Block 1F upgraded Rooivalk helicopters were initially ordered by the air force as part of an R876m ($95.1m) deal from Denel, but the order was reduced to 11 following an accident.

Designated the Rooivalk Mk 1 in SAAF service, the helicopters will be used to conduct peacekeeping operations and in support of future deployment of South African soldiers.

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The 16 Squadron, based at Bloemspruit Air Force Base near Bloemfontein, South Africa, has been operating the aircraft since April 2011.

A derivative of Aerospatiale SA 330 Puma helicopter, the Rooivalk is designed to carry out a wide range of operations, including reconnaissance, heliborne escort, close air support, deep penetration and anti-armour, as well as ground suppression and ferry missions in the battlefield.

Powered by two Turbomeca Makila 1K2 turboshaft engines, the Block 1F helicopter can carry various weapons depending on the mission requirement and features improved targeting systems and other avionics that enable use of Mokopa ZT-6 anti-tank guided missile (ATGM).

Image: The South African Air Force’s Rooivalk attack helicopter during its flight.

Defence Technology