Next generation of formidable Rooivalk attack chopper in the pipeline
Plans are underway to launch the next generation of the South African military's formidable attack helicopter‚ the Rooivalk.
The announcement was made at the African Aerospace and Defence Show in Pretoria on Tuesday‚ by defence minister Nosiviwe Masipa-Nqakula and defence secretary Dr Saam Gulube.
The helicopter has "blooded" itself having carried out a series of successful operations as part of the United Nations’ peacekeeping missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Earlier this year South African Air Force pilots successfully carried out operations against Islamist rebel groups in the DRC‚ who were attacking villages in the eastern part of that country.
These operations followed a string of similar such missions last year and in 2014‚ under the UN peacekeeping banner‚ against the M23 rebel group.
Any relaunch of the production line for the Rooivalk would‚ say aviation manufacturing and defence experts‚ require a minimum launch order of 75 aircraft.
The Rooivalk's manufacturer‚ Denel‚ is said to have begun discussions with the South African Air Force and is said to be courting military and defence representatives from Egypt and Nigeria‚ where both countries are fighting deadly insurgencies.
In the announcement‚ Gulube said that the country's defence industry was hard at work to upgrade and launch the new generation Rooivalk attack helicopter.
"We are looking at finding partners to work with not only here in South Africa‚ but also in Africa and abroad‚" he said.
Gulube said they were looking at marketing the next generation Rooivalk in Africa and India and Brazil.
"It [the new generation] would involve having 65 [Rooivalks] on the production line‚ which we would look at rolling out to our current and new partners. These partners would be in Africa‚ who could contribute to the development of the next generation‚ and who would be possibly interested in buying the aircraft.”
Defence analyst Helmoed Heitman said the country‚ especially the defence force and Denel‚ needed to be clever with the relaunch.
"A second generation Rooivalk is a very good idea‚ with a step up of production being fantastic for the country.
"It would bring us up to the required numbers which we need‚ which is 24‚ and would make up a viable squadron for the air force." He however warned that any upgrades should not see any messing about with the helicopter's airframe.
"Engine upgrades and computer systems yes‚ but general airframe no. The purpose of Denel is to assist the South African National Defence Force in providing it with strategic equipment to provide ground support.
"If there is an excess of equipment‚ yes export‚ but the primary focus is ensuring that the troops on the ground have what they need in terms of superior firepower support."
Heitman said opportunities should not be ignored.
"If needs be designs can be adapted for export‚ but it the primary upgrades must be specifically for the benefit of our defence force and air force‚" he said‚ adding that in its current form it was still up to its tasking.