Denel hints at new Rooivalk on the cards
Group chief executive of South African state-owned Denel, Riaz Saloojee, hopes to get approval from the government to restart the Rooivalk combat helicopter production line.
He was briefing the media on the group’s financial results for 2014/15, which showed Denel posting a profit for the 5th consecutive year. It increased revenues by 28% to R5.9 billion (approx. US$ 500 million). With Denel claiming a global footprint across Africa, Asia Pacific, Middle East, Europe and South America, its exports now account for 52% of business.
“We hope to get a decision within three to six months from the Department of Defence to indicate the roadmap for Rooivalk,” Saloojee said. “The Minister of Defence is on record lauding the helicopter’s performance and wants us to further exploit it operationally and technologically.”
This follows the routing of rebel forces in late 2013 in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where the helicopter was deployed as part of United Nations peace enforcement operations.
Whilst characterising the Rooivalk as a “very credible attack helicopter,” Saloojee acknowledged that it needed upgrading, saying discussions with the DoD are under way. “But if we get the go-ahead on a Rooivalk Mk. 2, it would be a completely new attack helicopter, though based on the existing machine.”
He said the SARA (South African Regional Aircraft) concept unveiled at the Africa Aerospace and Defence show in September last year was still being pursued. It is a collaborative project with technical and government institutions, including universities. Aimed primarily at the African market to serve low-density routes, the SARA project will also build on Denel’s skills development initiatives to groom engineers and technicians in the aerospace environment.
On the Seeker 400 unmanned aerial vehicle system (UAVS), Saloojee said it was entering production shortly for an unnamed launch customer.
Derived from Denel’s smaller and successful Seeker 200, it is more capable with a dual payload capacity for different tactical missions. Cruising at 150km/h, at an operating altitude of 18,000ft, it has endurance of 16 hours. Making use of a tactical ground station it has a line-of-sight range of up to 750km.
Shown in an armed configuration at IDEX in Abu Dhabi recently, this variant named ‘Snyper’ was likely destined for a foreign customer.