DENEL IS CONFIDENT of securing its first export sales for the CSH-2 Rooivalk attack helicopter before the end of the year, following the South African Air Force's (SAAF) confirmation of a launch order for 12 machines.

The company claims to be in serious discussions with five unidentified prospective foreign buyers of the Rooivalk. Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates are considered to be the likeliest potential customers.

A domestic commitment to the programme is considered the key to winning export sales. "You can't really sell the helicopter if your own country is not buying it. The order is therefore of significance to us," says Denel chief executive Johan Alberts.

The Rooivalk is facing mounting competition in Malaysia from McDonnell Douglas (MDC), offering its AH-64D Apache, which was recently released for sale to South-East Asia (Flight International, 17-23 April).

Denel has signed a memorandum of understanding with Airod to assemble the helicopter and install avionics locally to strengthen its bid. "I can offer certain things that [MDC] can't," says Alberts.

The SAAF had originally wanted to delay ordering the Rooivalk until foreign buyers had been found. Alberts says that the SAAF has been persuaded that system and component commonality with the improved Oryx and a longer-term domestic requirement for up 36 machines made viable the support of a small number of Rooivalks.

Denel plans to deliver a pre-production helicopter at the end of the year for evaluation, validation and certification and to deliver up to four Rooivalks a year from 1998 through to 2001.

Atlas Aviation product marketing manager Angelo Maranta says that no further major changes are envisaged to the pre-production standard helicopter before the start of series manufacturing.

The helicopter already incorporates some significant improvements over the first two prototypes. It is powered by twin 2,245kW (3,000shp) Turbom,ca Makila 1K2 turbo-shafts, producing 5% more power and greater single-operation margin than that of the earlier 1A1 version.

Engine intakes and exhausts have been reconfigured for reduced heat signature and weight. Its two wing stubs have been modified to carry up to 16 Kentron Mokopa anti-tank missiles. Overall weight has been cut by around 1,000kg, to 8,750kg.

Avionics improvements include, the fitting of a digital auto-pilot, a health and usage monitoring system, twin colour multi-function displays and a monochrome control and display unit.

Source: Flight International