The South African air forces operate only 12 Denel AH-2 Rooivalk attack helicopters
The Atlas (now Denel) Rooivalk (red kestrel) is the first operational result of a development programme launched in 1981 for an indigenous attack helicopter. The programme initially involved the XH-1 Alpha and XTP-2 Beta as concept-proving and systems test-beds. The definitive Rooivalk prototype, originally designated XH-2 (Experimental Helicopter No.2), made its maiden flight in 1990.
The type was later redesignated CSH-2 (Combat Support Helicopter No.2) and, later still XDM (Experimental Development Model). A second prototype, the ADM (Advanced Development Model) flew soon after this and was tasked with avionics and ωɛλρσɳs development.
Although it looks like an entirely new machine, the Rooivalk is based on the South African Oryx utility helicopter, which in turn is a reverse-engineered and upgraded version of the French Aerospatiale Puma. The Rooivalk uses the same engines (albeit in slightly uprated form) and main rotor.
The stepped tandem cockpits for the pilot and co-pilot/gunner (rear and front respectively) have dual controls, as well as three LCD displays. The third display is used for threat warning. There is no head-up display, but symbology is displayed on the helmet visor in full colour. A gyro-stabilised turret at the nose contains an automatic target detection and tracking system which incorporates a laser rangefinder, forward-looking infra-red and TV camera, and the two crewmen each have a helmet-mounted sight system.
The South African air force has ordered an initial 16 examples as four operational evaluation and 12 operational helicopters. Standard production Rooivalk helicopters feature improved IR exhaust suppressors and enlarged sonson cheeks housing avionics and ammunition. A pair of external seats can be fitted to these cheeks, allowing a Rooivalk to pick up the crew of a downed helicopter, or to transport special forces soldiers. No16 Sqn, the SAAF’s first Rooivalk unit, received its first AH-2A (as the aircraft is known in service) in 1999, and also received the last of its 12 examples in 2001.
This gunship helicopter is armed with a nose-mounted ARMSCOR 20 mm cannon. It can carry up to 16 indigenous ZT-6 Mokopa (generally similar to the US Hellfire). Surprisingly the Mokopa is one of the most powerful anti-tank guided missiles in the world and has a range of 10 km. Alternatively the Rooivalk can carry smaller US TOW anti-tank guided missiles. Also this South Aftican helicopter has provision to carry short-range air-to-air missiles. This attack helicopter is often seen with pods packed with 70 mm unguided rockets.