Last week Denel Aviation delivered the first fully upgraded Rooivalk back to the South African Air Force (SAAF). After testing, the indigenous attack helicopter will finally get its type certificate and be inducted into the SAAF as the Rooivalk Mk 1. The SAAF’s No. 16 Squadron has been semi-operational on the type for a number of years, but the fleet has suffered problems. In November last year the squadron was grounded as Denel ceased engineering support on the order of the air force.
However, development work continued to produce the Block 1F version, which flew for the first time in February. Block 1F incorporates numerous modifications, including a new nav/comm suite, improved accuracy for the 20-mm cannon and 70-mm rocket armament, enhanced human-machine interface and environmental control system, plus dynamic improvements to increase mean times between failures (MTBF).
The No. 16 Squadron is set to resume operations with five Block 1F Rooivalks on April 1 next year. Its remaining six aircraft have undergone most of the hardware modifications but have yet to receive the final software. Known colloquially as “Block 1F minus,” they are being returned to flight under an interim support package so that refresher training can get under way before the squadron resumes operations. They will subsequently be given the full upgrade.
South Africa has committed to operating the Rooivalks for at least five more years, and development is continuing to improve them, including the addition of ferry tanks and the integration of the Denel Dynamics Mokopa missile, with a test firing expected within a few months.