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The Denel Rooivalk is a South African attack helicopter that was developed by Denel Aviation, a division of the state-owned defence corporation Denel. The name Rooivalk means “Red Falcon” in Afrikaans, a language spoken in South Africa. The helicopter was designed to perform various combat roles, such as escorting transport helicopters, destroying enemy air defenses, and engaging armored vehicles with anti-tank missiles.
The development of the Rooivalk started in 1984, when the South African Defence Force recognized the need for a dedicated attack helicopter that could operate in the harsh conditions of southern Africa. The project faced many challenges due to the international arms embargo imposed on South Africa because of its apartheid policy. To overcome these difficulties, the Rooivalk was based on an existing helicopter design, the Aérospatiale SA 330 Puma, which was already in service with the South African Air Force. The Puma provided a reliable and proven platform for the integration of new systems and weapons.
The first prototype of the Rooivalk flew in 1990, and after a long and complex testing and evaluation process, the helicopter entered service with the South African Air Force in 2011. Only 12 Rooivalks were produced, and they are operated by 16 Squadron based at AFB Bloemspruit near Bloemfontein. The Rooivalk has seen combat action in support of United Nations peacekeeping missions in Africa, such as in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mali. The helicopter has demonstrated its capabilities and performance in various scenarios, such as providing close air support, escorting convoys, conducting reconnaissance and surveillance missions, and protecting civilians.
The Rooivalk is equipped with a range of advanced avionics and sensors that enable it to operate day and night in all weather conditions. It has a chin-mounted 20 mm cannon that can fire up to 740 rounds per minute at targets up to 2 km away. It can also carry up to 16 missiles on four hardpoints under its stub wings. These include anti-tank missiles such as the ZT3 Ingwe or Mokopa , air-to-air missiles such as the Mistral or Starstreak , or unguided rockets such as the FZ90 or CRV7 . The Rooivalk can also carry external fuel tanks or electronic countermeasures pods.
The Rooivalk is powered by two Turbomeca Makila turboshaft engines that provide a maximum speed of 309 km/h and a range of 740 km. The helicopter has a tandem cockpit configuration with an armored canopy that can withstand small arms fire. The pilot sits in front and controls the flight systems and weapons aiming , while the weapon systems officer sits behind him and operates the weapons firing . Both crew members have access to helmet-mounted displays that show flight data , target information , weapon status , etc.
The Denel Rooivalk is one of the most advanced attack helicopters in Africa ,and one of only a few indigenous designs developed outside Europe or North America . It represents a significant achievement for South African aerospace industry ,and showcases its technological innovation and expertise .
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