The South African Air Force is the proud new owner of the upgraded Rooivalk combat support helicopter. Rooivalk Mark 1 is now ready for operational duties.
The helicopter, designed and manufactured in South Africa, was received by the Chief of the SA Air Force, Lt Gen Carlo Gagiano.
Denel CEO Talib Sadik says the handover is the culmination of 25 years of research, development and high-technology manufacturing.
"This is a product that the South African public can be proud of, locally designed, locally manufactured and now ready for deployment by our local Air Force," Sadik said.
Gagiano said the Rooivalk will contribute significantly to the ability of the SAAF to fulfil its mandate in peacekeeping operations and to support the future deployment of South African soldiers.
The handover at the Denel Aviation campus in Kempton Park follows a rigorous testing and evaluation programme by the SAAF.
The first five helicopters will be operational at 16 Squadron, which is based in Bloemfontein. The remaining six will be completed and ready for deployment later this year.
Sadik said the upgraded Rooivalk Mark 1 has been tested at the Air Force's Test Flight and Development Centre (TFDC) since the beginning of November 2010. The evaluation included day and night flight operations, target identification and tracking, cannon firing, and evaluation of the secure communications modes and self-protection features.
The Rooivalk project started its design phase in 1984 and had its first flight in April 1990. It attracted worldwide attention for its unique design and capabilities and has been displayed at major international air shows in England, Dubai, Malaysia and Cape Town.
Denel Aviation was responsible for the final modifications to the helicopter to improve its safety and reliability and accuracy of its weapons systems.