South Africa's government has given the go-ahead for Denel to engage in formal talks with potential foreign partners with a view to launching production of a new "mark two" version of its Rooivalk attack helicopter.

On the opening day of AAD, defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula announced she was authorising government to government negotiations about restarting a progamme that has been dormant since 2012 when the last of 13 Rooivalks was handed to the South African air force. Eleven are in service, but the helicopter has failed to find an export buyer.

However, the Rooivalk's successful engagement against insurgents in the Democratic Republic of Congo, during a South African peacekeeping mission, has increased international interest in the aircraft, says Victor Xaba, deputy chief executive of Denel Aerostructures, with Brazil and Middle Eastern nations among those making approaches.

He says Denel would need commitments for at least 70 units to "support the re-establishment of manufacturing".

Meanwhile, Denel is pressing ahead with plans for a "mark 1.1" upgrade to the existing Rooivalks, with a missile approach warning system and improved avionics among the enhancements. Work is due to begin in April 2017 with a completion date to be agreed, says Xaba.

Source: Flight International