Malaysia and South Africa are finalising a deal covering the purchase of an initial eight Denel CSH-2 Rooivalk attack helicopters. If signed, it would mark the Rooivalk's first export order.

Malaysia has given the clearest indication to date that it has opted to purchase the Rooivalk, rather than the competing McDonnell Douglas AH-64D Apache.

The country's defence minister, Syed Hamid Albar, told local reporters: "We'll probably buy eight aircraft, but it all depends on negotiations of the whole deal and this includes the transfer of technology if possible."

According to local sources, Syed informed his US counterpart, William Cohen, of Malaysia's intention to drop the AH-64 in favour of the Rooivalk, during a recent visit to the USA. The Rooivalk is understood to enjoy political support in Kuala Lumpur, particularly in the wake of the South African president Nelson Mandela's trip to Malaysia in March.

A purchase price and final contract have still to be settled. The deal will almost certainly involve Malaysian industrial participation, with Denel having already signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to team with Airod (Flight International, 13-19 December, P24). Proposals include local kit assembly and the installation of avionics into a green airframe.

The MoU also includes provision for local kit assembly of the Denel Oryx, an upgraded South African-built version of the Eurocopter AS330 Puma. Denel is promoting the Oryx to meet a longer-term Malaysian requirement for a new combat search-and-rescue helicopter eventually to replace its Sikorsky S-61 Nuris.

A replacement machine is not included in the existing five-year plan for the period 1996-2000, but has begun to attract more attention as the result of a spate of recent Nuri crashes.

Following the loss of two machines and the death of 11 servicemen in Sabah in mid-March, the Government has ordered the air force to make recommendations within 30 days on replacing and/or upgrading some of its 30 surviving Nuris.

Various avionics enhancements are being studied, including fitting a Teledyne health-and-usage monitoring system, an autopilot, forward-looking infra-red imager and night-vision goggles. Sikorsky, in the meantime, is to deliver the first two new S-70 Black Hawk VIP transport helicopters to Malaysia by the end of the year.

Source: Flight International