The Rooivalk is a latest-generation attack helicopter from Denel Aviation of South Africa. The South African Air Force ordered 12 Rooivalk AH-2As, the first of which entered service in July 1999. The helicopters form part of No. 16 Squadron at Bloemspruit Air Force Base (near Bloemfontein).
The helicopters have been delivered and were to be fitted with the Mokopa ZT-6 anti-tank missile. A production order for the Mokopa was placed in March 2004. Delays with the development of the missile meant significant delays in integrating with the Rooivalk.
In May 2007 Denel Group announced they would cease development for the Rooivalk, however in November 2007 the South African government announced they would invest R962m ($137m) in the Rooivalk to bring it up to operational status by 2011.
In April 2011 the South African Air Force received five Block 1F upgraded Rooivalks which enabled the Mokopa integration.
Rooivalk attack helicopter cockpit
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.
A Thales Avionics TopOwl helmet-mounted sight display (HMSD) provides the crew with a head-up display of information for nap-of-the-earth flight (NOE). TopOwl incorporates an integrated measurement system for directing an articulated weapon such as the cannon, or air-to-air missile seeker heads. It has an integrated Gen IV image intensifier and FLIR capability and provides transition from day to night use at the push of a button.
Thales Avionics TopOwl helmet-mounted sight display (HMSD)- Image @thalesgroup.com
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 a minute. Two ammunition bins hold up to 700 rounds of ready-to-fire ammunition. The slew rate of the cannon is 90° a second. The cannon is chin-mounted on the helicopter.
Giat Industries 20 mm M693 (F2)
The Giat Industries 20 mm M693 (F2) is a dual feed cannon which fires standard 20 x 139 mm ammunition.
It is gas operated and the firing mode can be selected for single shots, bursts or safe. The gas system operates via two vents, one on each side of the barrel, through which the propellant gases can push against two pistons. The gun is locked by two swinging locking devices which act as struts between the gun body and the gun block. On firing, the two gas pistons are driven to the rear, moving the struts backwards and so allowing the breech block to move to the rear. In this way all the firing forces are developed along the barrel centreline to keep accuracy constant.
The M693 has three main assemblies: the basic gun or recoil mass; the cradle; and the fire-control unit. The basic gun includes a 7° rifled barrel made of a special nitrided steel and fitted with a muzzle brake. The feed operates on a ratchet and pawl mechanism rotating two side sprockets which can feed ammunition into the gun from both sides, ejecting the spent cases from the same side as the feed in use. This system allows two types of ammunition to be fed into the gun. A further control switch can select the ammunition feed to be used. The linked rounds are fed into the gun from flexible chutes.
The M693 can be fitted with an electric recocking device including a system to indicate the end of its operation, or a hydraulic recocking device.
|Main weapon caliber (mm)||
|Barrel length (calibres)||
|Recoil stroke (mm)||
|Rate of fire (rds/min)||
Giat Industries 20 mm M693 (F2) data @army-guide.com
The Rooivalk was to be armed with the Mokopa long-range anti-armour missile developed by the Kentron Division of Denel. Mokopa has a semi-active laser seeker head and is equipped with a tandem warhead. Range is over 8.5km. Rooivalk can also fire Hellfire or HOT 3 missiles.
Mokopa anti-armour missile
Mokopa is a state-of-the-art, long-range, precision-guided, anti-armour missile. It may, however, be used effectively against other high-value ground, air or naval targets from a variety of launch platforms such as land vehicles, shore battery installations, naval vessels and fixed-wing aircraft.
The modular design of the missile allows for different warheads (e.g. penetration, fragmentation or anti-armour), optimized for the type of target. Furthermore, the modularity of the missile system facilitates pre-planned upgrades, such as mmW and IIRseekers, ensuring a continued presence in the market.
System Operation (SAL Version)
Prior to launch, target information must be supplied via the on-board sighting system or from an external source. After launch, the missile flies towards the target area, using the selected trajectory and fly-out method. During the terminal phase, the target must be illuminated by the on-board sighting system or a remote designator.
The Mokopa system consists of the following major components:
178 mm missile
Launcher (two or four missiles)
- Missile mass : 49,8 kg
- Missile diameter : 178 mm
- Missile length : 1 995 mm
- Seeker : Semi-active laser homing
- Warhead : Tandem HEAT
- Penetration : > 1 350 mm RHA
- Range : 10 000 m
Mokopa anti-armour missile & MBDA Mistral – Image @saairforce.co.za
Rooivalk can carry four air-to-air missiles such as the Denel Aerospace Systems V3C Darter or MBDA (formerly Matra BAe Dynamics) Mistral.
V3C Darter AAM
A greatly improved version of the short-range V3B AAM, it was cleared for use with the Mirage III, Mirage F1 and Cheetah aircraft. The missile is linked to the helmet-mounted acquisition system which allows the pilot to lock the missiles seeker head onto the target well outside his aircraft’s axis. It is comparable to the AIM-9L Sidewinder. Using both contact and laser proximity fuses, launch velocity is the aircraft’s speed plus 600m/s. It can be fired against targets within 15 degrees of the sun, and in look-down mode.
Produced from 1986, the Darter has a larger-diameter fuselage when compared to the V3B, gimble limits were increased to 55 degrees and incorporated shorter reaction times and a laser fuse. Lead bias was optimised from 20 to 160 degrees by using a colour guidance system to distinguish between aircraft and decoy flares. The Bush War ended before it entered service in 1990, but was still used by the Impala Mk II. Further development of the Kenron V3C ceased in favour of the larger U-Darter.
MBDA mistral air-to-air missiles
The MBDA Mistral is a very short-range air defence missile system capable of intercepting close to the ground-flying helicopters and fighter aircraft.
The Atam system is comprised of two launching ramps with two missiles each, i.e. four ready-to-fire missiles. It is capable of intercepting helicopters as well as fighter aircraft and can be fired from altitudes of up to 15,000 ft and at speeds of up to 200 knots.
Very simple to use (Fire and Forget missile) and easy to maintain, the system can be operated in the whole flight envelope of the carrier helicopter.
The warheads are equipped with a contact fuse, a laser proximity fuse and a time delay self destruct device. Guidance is by passive infra-red homing using an indium arsenide detector array operating in the 3 to 5 micron waveband. The guidance system is capable of trajectory-shaping and has a self-spinning airframe for improved accuracy. The warhead can be detonated either by impact or by an active laser proximity fuse.
The US-made AGM-114 Hellfire Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) is one of the most common and important heliborne weapons of the Western Bloc. Designed to serve as an equalizer against superior numbers of Warsaw Pact tanks at the height of the Cold War, this missile continues to find a place in new missions and battles that were largely discounted in its infancy.
Development of this weapon began in 1974, as a US Army program. In its conceptual phase, the AGM-114 was known as the “HELFIRE”, a portmanteau of “HELicopter launched FIRE and forget”. The HELFIRE by 1978 had become a joint program US Marine Corp as well; the Marines had a requirement for essentially the same type of weapon, and Congress directed that they co-develop the HELFIRE. Test firings began later that same year, with operational testing was reportedly completed in 1981, and the AGM-114 achieved initial operational capability with the US Army in 1985.
At some point before it was approved for production in 1982 the AGM-114 HELFIRE was inevitably renamed the “Hellfire”, and like most modern US weapons, its origins are a tangled web of ties between legions of contractors and subcontractors. It was initially a proprietary Rockwell product, but a Martin Marietta seeker head was integrated into the design by the time its live-fire testing began. The motors were all manufactured by Thikliol, but are now ATK products. The primary contractor today for all models except the AGM-114L is Hellfire Systems LLC, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The AGM-114L is currently produced by Longbow LLC, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. Thus, for all intents and purposes, the Hellfire is essentially a Lockheed product.
All variants to date, with the exception of the AGM-114L, employ semi-active laser guidance. The missile homes-in on a laser spot produced by a laser designator. The aircraft employing the Hellfire usually have their own laser designator, but the target can be “lased” by another aircraft, a fighting vehicle, personnel with a man-portable designator, and so on.
The Hellfire is most famously associated with the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, but since its introduction has been integrated into a multitude of different launch platforms, including fixed-wing aircraft. It has also been successfully integrated into ground-based and naval launch platforms, though to date none of these have entered production. The problem with the Hellfire in a ground-based application is likely its significant mass and unit cost; a BGM-71C TOW IIA, for example, is half the weight and cost of the AGM-114L Hellfire. A new generation of more compact ATGMs, such as the 9M133 Kornet and FGM-148 Javelin, have further eroded the viability of ground-launched Hellfires. The limitations of the Hellfire for marine use are much simpler, in that it is extremely lacking in range and power compared to missiles such as the AGM-119 Penguin or RGM-84 Harpoon.
It is also possible for the Hellfire to engage helicopters and slow fixed-wing aircraft, though its guidance, warhead, and flight profile obviously make it less than ideal for this purpose (hence, why combat helicopters are often seen carrying missiles like the AIM-92 Stinger and AIM-9 Sidewinder). The only documented case of the Hellfire shooting-down an aircraft was on May 24th 2001, when an IDF AH-64 Apache shot-down a civilian Cessna 152 intruding into restricted airspace (which unfortunately stemmed from the inexperience of the civilian pilot, rather than hostile intent).
|Armor penetration||~ 800 mm|
|Range of fire||7 000 – 9 000 m|
|Missile weight||45.4 – 49 kg|
|Missile length||1.63 – 1.8 m|
|Missile diameter||0.18 m|
|Fin span||0.33 m|
|Warhead type||HEAT, various (see below)|
|Warhead weight||8 or 9 kg|
|Guidance||Semi active laser of active radar|
HOT 3 missiles
The HOT is an anti-tank missile of French/German origin. It was developed in the early and mid 1970s to replace the SS.11 missile. The name HOT stands for Haut subsonique, Optiquement téléguidé, Tiré d’un tube, this translates to high subsonic, optically guided, tube launched. The performance is comparable to the American TOW missile and Soviet Konkurs (AT-5) missile
The HOT is a powerful anti-tank missile with good penetration characteristics. The HOT-1 HEAT warhead penetrates 800 mm RHA, the HOT-2 does 900 mm and the tandem HEAT warhead on the HOT-3 penetrates 1.250 mm behind ERA. It is also effective against bunkers and light vehicles, but of limited use against infantry in the open. The maximum range is 4 km and the flight speed is about 850 km/h. The SACLOS guidance results in good accuracy, even against moving targets.
HOT-1: Original HOT missile produced since 1978. Fitted with 136mm diameter shaped charge HEAT warhead.
HOT-2: Improved HOT-1 introduced in 1985. Has a 150mm diameter warhead for increased penetration. The missile body is lighter to compensate for the increased weight.
HOT-2MP: Multi Purpose version of HOT-2 introduced in 1986. Fitted with penetrating blast fragmentation warhead for use against buildings, fortified positions and all vehicles except tanks.
HOT-3: Final version introduced in 1993 and previously called HOT-2T. Has a tandem shaped charge HEAT warhead for much increased penetration and longer guidance wire. Data @weaponsystems.net
The V3C Darter has an infrared seeker and a helmet-mounted sight for target designation. The Mistral, which has been selected by the South African Air Force, has an infrared seeker and range of up to 6km.
Rooivalk is equipped to fire 70mm folding-fin aerial rockets (FFAR), from the company Forges de Zeebrugge of Belgium, with a range of warheads, selectable according to the type of targets being engaged.
FZ 90 70mm FFAR
Developed by Forges de Zeebrugge of Belgium from a licence-built US-designed Folding Fin Aircraft Rocket (FFAR). In mid-1990s announced development of Wraparound Fin Air Rocket (WAFAR) FZ 90, designed primarily for helicopters. Denel says these were found superior to the old 68mm SNEB’s.
In 1997, TDA announced that the TDA/FZ 70 mm rocket system consisting of the FZ 90 rocket motor, warheads and M159 rocket launcher had been selected for integration on the South African Rooivalk helicopter.
M159 rocket launcher
Metallic rocket launcher
M159 is an aluminum high-drag, straight cylindrical 19-tube reusable launcher designed for helicopter use. The rocket launcher M159 is equipped with removable universal dual purpose FZ125 detent mechanisms enabling to fire FFAR and WA rockets. @fz.be
Warheads are selectable according to the type of targets being engaged.
HEAT; HE general purpose; MPSM/HE anti-armour/anti-personnel submunition; AMV multidart; target marking; smoke; chaff; illumination
Rooivalk (x 19 per pod)
Rooivalk electronic warfare suite
The Rooivalk’s electronic warfare suite is the fully integrated helicopter electronic warfare self-protection suite (HEWSPS), incorporating radar warning, laser warning and countermeasures dispensing system. The system is flight-line programmable and in-flight adaptable to match the threat library with the mission’s area of operation.
The radar warner features low-effective radiated power (ERP) / pulse Doppler radar detection beyond radar detection range, ultra broadband frequency coverage, high pulse density handling and internal instantaneous frequency measurement.
The laser warner provides broadband laser frequency coverage to detect and display rangefinding, designating and missile guidance laser threats.
The countermeasures dispensing system, which is operated in manual, semi-automatic or fully automatic mode, is charged with chaff and flare cartridges.
Fire control and observation
Target detection, acquisition and tracking are carried out using the nose-mounted stabilised sight, TDATS. The TDATS sight is equipped with a low-level television sensor, Forward-looking infrared (FLIR), autotracker, laser rangefinder and laser designator.
Navigation and communications
The Rooivalk is equipped with an advanced navigation suite including Doppler radar velocity sensor, Thales Avionics eight-channel global positioning system, heading sensor unit and an air data unit.
The communications suite consists of two VHF/UHF transceivers with FM, AM and digital speech processing, one HF radio with frequency hopping and secure voice and data channels, and an IFF transponder
|Dimensions and weight|
|Main rotor diameter||15.58 m|
|Weight (empty)||5.9 t|
|Weight (maximum take off)||8.7 t|
|Engines and performance|
|Engines||2 x Atlas Topaz turboshaft engines|
|Engine power||2 x 2 000 hp|
|Maximum cruising speed||309 km/h|
|Cannon||1 x 20-mm Armscor cannon|
|Missiles||4 x four-round launchers for TOW or Denel ZT-6 Mokopa anti-tank missiles, provision for air-to-air missiles|
|Other||launchers with 70-mm unoperated rockets in place of the missiles|
Main material source @army-technology.com