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Rooivalk Mk2 Combat Support Helicopter

By 2015 the Department of Defence was considering whether to restart the Rooivalk project, to develop an upgraded version of the strike helicopter for the South African Air Force and perhaps for export. The next generation Rooivalk would feature better sights, improved firepower, greater payload and better survivability amongst other improvements, he said. The airframe and engines are still deemed satisfactory and would not be changed in a future upgrade.

Denel revealed plans for the next generation Rooivalk during a demonstration event at the Denel Overberg Test Range (DOTR) in the Western Cape in February 2016. The project involved about 1,000 engineers, many of whom cut their teeth on the Rooivalk, and many of whom have gone on to other things. Denel estimated that it would take only four years to put the Rooivalk Mk 2 into service, including the development of prototypes, establishment of production, and production and assembly for launch customers.

The current version of the Rooivalk, the Mk1F baseline was released for operational deployment in 2011 by Denel to the SANDF and Denel remains responsible for continued airworthiness and operational effectiveness of the aircraft as the original equipment manufacturer. Discussions were at an advanced stage with the Department of Defence and the SAAF regarding an upgrade to the current baseline that will also enhance operational effectiveness of the aircraft. Denel remained confident that this will logically lead to a next generation Rooivalk (or the Mk2 baseline) that will also be available for the export market.

That triggered noise, particularly from those who believed the Rooivalk was an unmitigated disaster. Analysis suggested otherwise, as became clear from a recent study of the project commissioned by the Department of Public Enterprises to draw lessons for future major projects. One finding was that the Rooivalk generated a positive revenue flow for SA: The development and manufacture of 12 aircraft cost about R6.2bn at 2014 exchange rates. Exports of systems developed for the Rooivalk — missiles, stabilised sight, self-protection, health and usage monitoring, and so on — had passed R15.4bn by 2014. A further R7.1bn worth of defence industrial participation work on the Gripen, Hawk, A-109 and A400M aircraft would have been impossible without the skills and technologies established for the Rooivalk project. The exports continue, as does development of those systems.

It has outstanding "hot and high" performance, illustrated by its 5,545m "out-of-ground effect" hover ceiling (the height at which it can hover without the cushion of air caused by rotor downwash). The next best is the US Apache (3,866m), followed by the Russian Mi-28 and Ka-52 (3,600m); the Franco-German Tiger (3,200m) and the Chinese WZ-10 (2,000m). The Rooivalk also has the highest cruise speed, the best rate of climb and the best range/weapons load performance, and shares with the Tiger the best power to weight ratio, all factors critical in operations and combat.

While retaining the airframe, powerplant and other dynamic components, the Rooivalk Mk2 will incorporate the on-board electronics systems of today (and presumably the future). It will also make use of modern munitions such as the Mokopa laser-guided anti-tank missile and A-Darter air-to-air missile. Like its predecessor, the Rooivalk Mk2’s prospects will hinge on overseas adoption. To be precise, the only real shot this program has for success is if a prospective buyer contributes to the platform’s development.

Defence Minister Nosiviwe Masipa-Nqakula and Defence Secretary Dr Saam Gulube announced 13 September 2016 at the African Aerospace and Defence Show in Pretoria that plans were underway to launch the next generation of the Rooivalk. A relaunch of the production line for the Rooivalk would‚ say aviation manufacturing and defence experts‚ require a minimum launch order of 75 aircraft. Denel was said to be courting military and defence representatives from Egypt and Nigeria. Gulube said they were looking at marketing the next generation Rooivalk in Africa and India and Brazil.

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Page last modified: 18-09-2016 20:16:01 ZULU