Airbus Helicopters has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Denel Aviation to cooperate on modernising the current fleet of 11 Rooivalk Mk1 attack helicopter in service with the South African Air Force.
Announced on September 15 at the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) exhibition being held at Air Force Base Waterkloof, South Africa, the Rooivalk Mk1.1 modernisation program will focus on improving reliability and updating ageing sighting and weapon systems, improving payload and survivability.
“As part of the Rooivalk roadmap, we will launch a market assessment and feasibility study into a modernised version of the Rooivalk incorporating enhanced operational capabilities,” said Denel Aviation’s chief executive Mike Kgobe.
“Our ultimate objective is to offer a South African product which will provide an attractive solution for potential export customers around the world.”
Airbus Helicopters’ senior vice president for sales and customer relations Olivier Lambert added the MoU collaboration “showed both parties’ willingness to strengthen and deepen their relationship with a view to establishing a long-term strategic cooperative partnership”.
Denel has also confirmed plans to build an upgraded Rooivalk Mk2 following renewed interest in the South African designed and built helicopter after its performance with UN peacekeeping missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Three Rooivalks have been deployed to the DRC since 2013 where they have reportedly performed well in a range of missions and demonstrated good availability and reliability.
Denel said while restarting the Rooivalk production line would require a minimum order of around 75 helicopters, discussions and negotiations were ongoing with potential African partners to contribute to manufacture of a Rooivalk Mk 2. Potential users included Egypt, Brazil, Nigeria, Poland and India.
The Rooivalk was a contender in the ADF’s Project Air 87 Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter tender but was eliminated from the competition in 2001.