Denel Rooivalk: Africa’s indigenous attack helicopter

Rooivalk: Africa’s Golden Warrior.


They say necessity is the mother of all innovation, if that is the case, then i say war is the father of all necessity.

Invariably, war is the father of all innovation. My own Twisted logic…


A pair of Rooivalk in flight

A pair of Rooivalk in flight

To be straight, i do not advocate for war neither do i see it as necessary means to end any grievances.



However, we have to agree that it has spurred many innovative device that we find invaluable in our day-to-day life… But that’s a story for another day.

The Rooivalk named after the majestic Red Kestrel falcon Bird in the local Afrikaan language was built to counter large formations of tank assault; blunting the edge of the onslaught sufficiently enough for other allied units to defeat the tank formation.

This impressive war machine was built when Apartheid South Africa found herself isolated from the world while also neck-deep in a brutal border war.

The rear view of a Rooivalk in flight


The rear view of a Rooivalk in flight

Designing, building and fielding such advanced aeronautical marvel is a feat all Africans are immensely proud of. The Rooivalk provides South African military industrial complex a great deal of technical experience and prestige as a world leader alongside other powerful nations in weapons design and development.

Echoing the words of Denel’s CEO Mr. Talib Sadik who said:

“This is a product that the entire South Africa can be proud of – locally designed, locally manufactured and now ready for deployment by our local Air Force.”


Confronted with an sever international arms embargo and certain military obsolescence, the then Apartheid South African government was forced to manufacture it’s own arms and ammunition locally either by modifying foreign made arms or through clandestine acquisition from the international black market. The South African government, in an attempt to go-around the arms embargo established Armscor in 1960. Armscor later morphed into present day Denel Systems.

Although, the Rooivalk is wholly South African made however, certain technical sub-components which could not be produced in the country such as the turboshaft engines and other dynamic systems such as the main and tail rotor systems and the gearboxes were sourced from the Oryx utility helicopter which itself is a reversed engineered copy of the Aerospatiale Puma. The Oryx is literally a vastly upgraded Puma helicopter.


A Rooivalk at night

In terms of armament, the Rooivalk carries a wide range of weapons systems depending on the mission at hand. With its advanced sensors, it can track and engage targets from long range coupled with a comprehensive electronic warfare suite for self defense.

Political factors has hindered it’s sales to other nations. Nevertheless. the Rooivalk’s excellent performance against insurgents in the Democratic Republic of the Congo during its 2013 peacekeeping mission has earned it’s place as Africa’s Golden Warrior







Rooivalk Specifications

Data from Jane’s All The World’s Aircraft, 2003-2004
Rooivalk Specifications

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2 (pilot & weapon systems officer)
  • Length: 18.73 m
  • Rotor diameter: 15.58 m
  • Height: 58 m
  • Empty weight: 5,730 kg (12,632 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 7,500 kg (16,535 lb)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 8,750 kg (19,290 lb)
  • Internal fuel capacity: 1,854 L (489.8 US gallons)
  • Powerplant : 2 × Turbomeca Makila 1K2
  • turboshafts, 1,420 kW (1,904 shp) each


  • Never exceed speed: 309 km/h (167 knots, 193 mph)
  • Cruise speed: 278 km/h (150 knots, 173 mph) at sea level (max cruise)
  • Range : 740 km (380 nmi , 437 mi) at sea level(max internal fuel)
  • Ferry range : 1,335 km (720 nmi, 829 mi) at 1525 m (5,000 ft) (max external fuel)
  • Service ceiling: 6,100 m (20,000 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 13.3 m/s (2,620 ft/min)


  • 1 × F2 20 mm cannon , 700 rounds
  • 8 or 16 × Mokopa ZT-6 long-range anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM),
  • 4 × MBDA Mistral air-to-air missiles ,
  • 38 or 76 × 70 mm rockets


A model design of a Rooivalk

A model design of a Rooivalk


About the Author

E Lionel
Techy, Futurist.

Leave a Reply

Notify of