The “Kestrel” to be fully operational at last

The Denel Aviation CSH-2A “Rooivalk” (Kestrel) combat support helicopter will be released to operational service “within the next eight months” when the first five fully-certified locally-designed and manufactured combat support helicopters will be handed over to the South African Air Force.

The Rooivalk will also be on public display at AAD 2010, the Africa Aerospace and Defence Show held at Air Force Base Ysterplaat in Cape Town from September 21 to 25. From there the helicopters will be subjected to an accelerated flying programme of some 200 hours that is scheduled to commence by mid-October 2010 from the SAAF test facility at AFB Overberg in the southern Cape. In preparation for this phase and planned release of aircraft to 16 Squadron Denel Aviation will also be supporting the SAAF with the training of flight and ground crews to regain the required competencies to operate and maintain Rooivalk.

Major General Otto Schür (Ret), Denel’s Group Executive: Technical says five baseline Rooivalk helicopters will be handed over for operational duties to the SAAF’s 16 Squadron in Bloemfontein by no later than the end of March next year. “The remaining six aircraft will be completed and ready for deployment soon after,” says Schür.

The original Rooivalk was designed as “an attack helicopter and tank killer” to meet the needs of SA Defence Force as it existed in the 1980s, explains Schür. The changing role of the SANDF, which is now primarily engaged in mandated peacekeeping missions meant that aircraft systems had to be adapted to meet the new requirements effectively. “Rooivalk is now a modern, sophisticated, combat support helicopter, ready to be used by the SANDF in any of its potential deployed operations,” he says.

Schür says two helicopters have been completed to the technical baseline as agreed with the SAAF, Department of Defence and Armscor. During the intermediate moratorium on new orders Denel completed the final modification and certification process through own funding, thus to ensure accelerated service delivery once the expected positive decision on the programme was to be made.

An important part of the project is that Denel Aviation will be fully responsible for the establishment of the deeper-level support capabilities that would be required to sustain flying operations for at least five years, secure an adequate pool of spares on instruction of the DoD/Armscor and to take responsibility for all maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) work done on the Rooivalk fleet through a formal support contract that must be secured before end-March 2011. “As design authority and original equipment manufacturer we will ensure that the Rooivalk remains fully operational throughout its assigned life,” says Schür.

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