SAAF Rooivalk fleet nearing operational statusDate: 19 November 2008
By Leon Engelbrecht
Four of the South African Air Force's 11 Denel AH2A Rooivalk attack helicopters have been upgraded to an operational configuration and the Chief of the Air Force says the remaining seven will be ready by next September.
Denel delivered the four aircraft at the end of September. They are optimised to give ground forces cannon and aerial rocket support.
"Rooivalk is going ahead," Lt Gen Carlo Gagiano says. "We can't be without Rooivalk." Gagiano says the weapons fit is sufficient for the peace support role now contemplated for the rotorcraft. He says feedback from "people in Afghanistan" is that "they very seldom use missiles".
The CAF confirms that the Rooivalk will for now not be fitted with any guided weapons. He says fitting the helicopter with the Denel Dynamics Mokopa long-range antitank missile that is still under development is now indefinitely delayed.
He adds the aircraft can also no longer carry the Denel Ingwe medium-range missile. "Putting on Ingwe will require you to change the whole main sight. That is going to be very costly. When we started marketing in Britain, we had the Ingwe on it [the Rooivalk]; but then we had to cater for the European requirement and change to Mokopa. That's what's happened."
Gagiano says an interim precision weapon may be laser-guided rockets.
He also stated that the fleet now numbered 11 not 12 platforms. "We have 11, number 12 is not repairable." The aircraft was damaged beyond repair on 3 August 2005 after a "possible technical malfunction" that triggered a chain of events that led to an uncontrolled landing. According to reports, the incident took place during the testing of a new automatic hovering system.
It was the second accident involving the type. In 2002 a Rooivalk crashed next to a main road near Pretoria after an apparent engine failure.
The helicopters are assigned to 16 Squadron at Air Force Base Bloemspruit at Bloemfontein.