The South African Air Force (SAAF) is planning to take delivery of the first of 12 Denel CSH-2 Rooivalk attack helicopters by the end of 1998, with deliveries to be completed within three years.

Denel has begun test flying the pre-production model, which differs considerably from the two earlier prototypes. The pre-production Rooivalk was rolled out in late February.

External differences include the nose-mounted housing for the infra-red sensor for the crew's helmet-mounted night-vision displays. The sponsons around the nose have been modified. Crew doors open upward, rather than forward, as on the two prototypes.

The stub wings are now straight, rather than slightly angled, while the wingtip air-to-air-missile pylon has been removed. An extra underwing hardpoint has been added.

Both prototype CSH-2s were displayed carrying the Kentron Kukri infra-red-guided missile. This weapon, however, will be replaced on the production-standard aircraft by the Matra British Aerospace Dynamics Mistral, according to Denel. The Mistral weighs 75% less than the far larger Kukri.The primary anti-armour weapon for the CSH-2 is Kentron's semi-active-laser-guided Mokopa.

Front and rear cockpits on the third CSH-2 have been configured to represent the service standard. The main panel has two Sextant Avionique multi-function displays and one central display unit. The weapons-system officer's cockpit is in the front bay, with the pilot in the rear bay.

The SAAF will use the aircraft initially for mission-suitability testing and for the development of an operational doctrine.

Denel continues to pursue export opportunities with the CSH-2. In the Pacific Rim, there are continuing negotiations with Malaysia, while the Rooivalk is also likely to be proposed to meet the Australian requirement for an attack helicopter.

Source: Flight International