A political cloud has formed over South Africa's Rooivalk attack helicopter (right) just as the machine is on the verge of its breakthrough first export sale.

Reports in the South African press this week have alleged that the finance and defence ministries are locked in a battle over the helicopter, as the finance ministry seeks further cuts in the country's defence budget.

Also supposedly at risk are the critically-needed new corvettes and submarines for the South African Navy.

Watching the situation carefully is Denel. Deputy managing director Dr Seshi Chonco accepts that the matter is now in the hands of the politicians, but adds: "There is no question in my mind that Rooivalk remains an essential programme for the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), and that it will continue as planned.

"Denel has a contract in hand signed with Armscor, the procurement agency for the SANDF, for the delivery of 12 Rooivalk attack helicopters to the South African Air Force."

Defence minister Joe Modise is on record as strongly supporting the helicopter, which is on the verge of clinching a deal with Malaysia.

A contract is being finalised for eight machines initially, with the possibility of up to 30 examples eventually being acquired by the Asian nation.

Source: Flight Daily News