Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR Sept 2014 Contents 76 Asia Pacific Defence Reporter SEPT 2014
combat engagements against various armed groups,
including the Alliance for a Free and Sovereign
Congo (APCLS), in addition to flying escort and
reconnaissance missions. For example, on March 1,
two Rooivalks fired on the Allied Democratic Forces
(ADF) rebel base at Saha Sitisa in the Mbau area
in North Kivu, using both 20 mm cannons and 70
mm unguided rockets. "The high accuracy (of the
Rooivalk) enables us to achieve our clear objective:
to end the recurring attacks by the ADF against the
civilian population," said Martin Kobler, the head of
Monusco (the UN mission in the DRC).
General Carols Alberto Dos Santos Cruz,
commander of UN forces in the DRC, also praised
the Rooivalk saying it “performed very well as
reinforcement to the mission and would be used in
future missions. They are very good aircraft – very
precise with very good technology. We need this
kind of firepower for our missions.”
Following the positive performance of the
helicopter in action, Mapisa-Nqakula called for
production of the Rooivalk to resume. Speaking
after a briefing on South African peace support
mission involvement in March this year, the minister
said that Denel Aviation had to be pushed to restart
production. “We have to assist them in whatever
way to manufacture more because... everybody now
wants a Rooivalk and they want a Rooivalk from
South Africa...wherever you go right now people are
talking about the Rooivalk and people would want to
order the Rooivalk...so our defence industry must be
beefed up, must be assisted.”
Denel Aviation stopped marketing the Rooivalk
seven years ago after failing to sign an export
customer, but the company’s CEO Mike Kgobe has
said that the production line could be re-established
and production resume given the right numbers.
Around 75 to 100 aircraft would have to be ordered
in order to make production economically viable,
according to Denel Aviation.
The Rooivalk was designed from the outset to
operate in harsh African environments with high
temperatures, dust and limited ground support.
For instance, maintainers can access the airframe
without the use of work platforms and maintenance
is simplified with the use of a Health and Usage
Monitoring System (HUMS) and Line Replaceable
Units (LRUs) that incorporate built-in test and
evaluation (BITE) monitors.
The two engines have exhaust heat suppressors
and particle/sand filters on their intakes, allowing
them to operate in harsh climates or bad weather.
The Rooivalk is powered by two licence-built
Turbomeca Makila 1K2 turboshafts with digital
control, developing 1 904 shp (1 420 kW) each,
although 30 seconds of emergency power can
produce 2 109 shp (1 573 kW).
As it was designed to have excess power, the
Rooivalk can take off on 50% power and hover
on a single engine. It is also very agile and is
able to fly inverted, backwards and perform rolls,
hammerheads and other manoeuvres.
The Rooivalk’s engines are one of its greatest
strengths but also one of its weakest links. Vibration
was found to affect the transmission and the
coupling gearboxes connecting the engines to the
main gearbox. Gearbox mounting components and
transmission clearance had to be changed by Denel
before the problem was rectified, with each aircraft
having components remanufactured.
Feeding the engines are 400 gallons (1 850
litres) of fuel carried in three self-sealing fuselage
tanks, giving a range of around 435 miles (700
km). However, external fuel tanks increase self-
deployment range by 50%. For ease of use in the
field, the aircraft can be refuelled and de-fuelled by
pressure or gravity or using an onboard pump.
The Rooivalk is relatively lightly armoured for
an attack helicopter, relying more on system
redundancy to survive hits. The two crew-members
sit in Martin-Baker crashworthy seats with armour
protection. In case of a crash, the landing gear is
designed to withstand an impact of up to 20 feet/
second (6 m/s).
The weapons system officer sits in the front
cockpit and the pilot behind but the cockpits
are interchangeable and have duel flight controls,
including hands on collective and stick (HOCAS).
The digital flight control system allows the aircraft to
maintain height and hover. All essential flight, threat,
weapons, sighting and navigation data is shown
on two 6.3 x 6.3 in (16 x 16 cm) colour LCD multi-
function displays (MFDs). In case of a computer
or power failure, a backup basic instrument panel
allows the crew to keep flying the aircraft.
Both crewmembers have Thales TopOwl helmet-
mounted sights/displays that can cue the sensor
turret (displaying sensor imagery) and slave
weapons – if the weapons system officer is looking
at a target, that is where the cannon will point.
TopOwl is also compatible with rockets and missiles
and incorporates a night vision system. Cockpit
instrumentation is night vision goggle compatible.
The Rooivalk’s main sensors are mounted in a
Republic of Sth AfRicA
After two more prototypes had
flown, the South African Air Force
(SAAF) ordered 12 Rooivalks in
July 1996, against the original
requirement for 36.
Both crewmembers have Thales
TopOwl helmet-mounted sights/
displays that can cue the sensor
turret (displaying sensor imagery)
and slave weapons – if the
weapons system officer is looking
at a target, that is where the
cannon will point.
Cedit: G Martin
4/09/14 2:32 PM
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