The successful deployment of the Rooivalk combat helicopter during peace-keeping operations in Africa has focused international attention on the technological capabilities of the South African defence industry.
The highly mobile helicopter – designed and manufactured by Denel SOC – turned the tide of hostilities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo when it was first deployed in support of the United Nations Intervention Brigade in November 2013.
The Acting Group Chief Executive of Denel, Zwelakhe Ntshepe, says the Rooivalk is proof that South Africa is able to design and manufacture defence systems that are among the best in the world. Defence and aerospace products designed and manufactured by Denel are featured prominently at the Dubai Airshow exhibition in Dubai this week.
The Rooivalk provided the winning edge for UN Forces that had been locked in battle with M23 guerrilla groups in the eastern part of the DRC. Within minutes of entering the combat zone it fired multiple rockets against rebel bunkers and destroyed the targets.
The helicopter offers a protective shield to forces on the ground, providing them with unprecedented levels of support, defensive cover and reconnaissance capabilities. However, when required, the Rooivalk is a highly effective combat machine with the capability of engaging enemy forces in any weather conditions and in the most inhospitable terrains.
“The helicopter is designed to operate in harsh environments and can be deployed for lengthy periods without sophisticated support. It has a cruise speed of 280 km/h and a range of more than 700 kilometres,” says Mr Ntshepe.
The helicopter’s crew consists of a pilot and a weapons systems officer who enjoy full situational awareness through multi-spectral sighting systems and sophisticated, locally-developed avionics. Its fully-integrated digital management system and low cockpit workload provide the crew with more time to focus on operational awareness.
Depending on battlefield requirements the Rooivalk can be armed with up to 16 Mokopa anti-tank missiles – developed by Denel Dynamics – four air-to-air missiles, 76 aerial rockets and a 20mm high-speed cannon capable of firing up to 750 rounds. Given the capabilities of the Mokopa, the Rooivalk can engage the enemy at distances of up 8 000 metres.
“The first test flight of the Rooivalk was undertaken as early as 1990. The development took on new momentum in 2008 to meet the modern requirements of the South African Air Force and the last of the 11 fully-upgraded helicopters was handed over for deployment in 2013,” Mr Ntshepe says.
As the original equipment manufacturer of the Rooivalk, Denel Aviation has been responsible for the final modifications to the helicopter to improve its safety and reliability and the accuracy of its weapon systems.
Denel Aviation continues to provide logistical support for the Rooivalk in terms of maintenance, repair and overhaul services to sustain the helicopters’ flight operations.
“The Rooivalk programme has underscored the capabilities of the South African defence industry to design and manufacture world-class products and systems. It has further promoted Denel’s growth into a high-technology powerhouse that contributes greatly to South Africa’s defence and security needs, with the capacity to provide international clients with tailor-made solutions,” says Mr Ntshepe.
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