The Denel AH-2 Rooivalk is a modern attack helicopter manufactured in South Africa by Denel Aerospace Systems, a division of Denel Ltd. 12 of these helicopters were ordered by the South African Air Force. The first helicopter entered service with the South African Air Force in 1999 and by April 2005 only six Rooivalk were operational as part of the 16 Squadron, which is based at AFB Bloemspruit near Bloemfontein.
The AH-2 Rooivalk gunship uses dynamic components from the Aerospatiale Puma, a transport helicopter that is in service with the South African Air Force. It was decided to use the Puma and not the Alouette III because of the Puma’s larger size and also because the Puma is built in South Africa by Atlas as the Oryx. And in case you are wondering, Rooivalk is Afrikaans for “Red Kestrel”.
The Rooivalk features a classic attack helicopter configuration. At first glance you could easily mistake it with the Eurocopter Tiger or the Agusta A 129 Mangusta. The cockpits are in stepped tandem configuration. The Weapon Systems Officer (WSO) is seated in the front cockpit and the pilot is seated in the cockpit above and behind the WSO. The cockpits, which are fitted with crashworthy seats and are armour-protected, are equipped with hands-on collective and stick (HOCAS) controls.
Denel Aerospace Systems designed the Rooivalk to withstand the harsh African environment. As a result the helicopter can operate in very basic surroundings for prolonged periods without sophisticated support. All that is needed to keep the Rooivalk flying is a four member ground crew and a few spares. The Rooivalk has a crash-resistant structure and is designed for stealth with low radar, visual, infrared and acoustic signatures.
The Rooivalk carries a comprehensive range of weaponry selected for the mission requirement, ranging from anti-armour and anti-helicopter missions to ground suppression and ferry missions. The aircraft can engage multiple targets at short and long range, utilising the nose-mounted cannon and a range of underwing-mounted munitions.The 20mm, F2 dual-feed, gas-operated cannon fires high-speed (1,100m/s) ammunition at a firing rate of 740 rounds per minute. Two ammunition bins hold up to 700 rounds of ready-to-fire ammunition. The slew rate of the cannon is 90 degrees per second. The cannon is chin-mounted on the helicopter.
The future of the Rooivalk is uncertain. Due to delays in deliveries and following its failure to win the Turkish Air Force attack helicopter tender Denel has announced that development and funding for the Rooivalk will cease. The future of the Rooivalk now rests in the hands of the South African government.
Denel AH-2 Rooivalk attack helicopter in action video
Denel AH-2 Rooivalk specifications
Crew 2 (pilot and weapon systems officer)
Length 18,73 m (main rotor to tail rotor); 16.39 m fuselage
Rotor diameter 15.58 m
Height 5.19 m
Empty weight 5,190 kg
Max takeoff weight 8,750 kg (19,290 lb)
Internal fuel capacity 1,469 kg
2× Turbomeca Makila 1K2 turboshafts, 1,716 kW (sea-level ISA) each
Maximum speed 309 km/h (193 mph)
Combat range 700 km combat (440 miles)
Ferry range 1,130 km ferry ( 700 mi)
Service ceiling 6,000 m (20,000 ft)
Rate of climb 13.3 m/s (2,105 ft/min)
1 x F2 20 mm cannon, 700 rounds
8 or 16 x Mokopa ZT-6 long-range anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM)
4 x MBDA Mistral air-to-air missiles
36 or 72 x 70 mm folding fin aerial rockets (FFAR)