21 Juli 2012
Denel Rooivalk attack helicopter (photo : Gary Shephard)
A spokesman for the Philippines Air Force (PAF) has been quoted as identifying South Africa as one of the countries that are under consideration to supply his service with new attack helicopters. South Africa is one of the few countries to have developed a dedicated attack helicopter, the Denel Rooivalk (Kestrel, in English).
The PAF is seeking 10 attack helicopters as part of a major modernisation programme. The other countries listed as possible suppliers by Lieutenant Colonel Miguel Okol were Italy, France, Russia and the UK. US helicopters have been ruled out as they are too expensive for the country.
Confusingly, PAF commander Lieutenant General Lauro Catalino de la Cruz was reported to have said that Italian helicopters would be ordered. These would presumably be AgustaWestland AW129 Mongoose attack helicopters.
However, Okol spoke to Agence France-Presse (AFP) after De la Cruz made his comment, suggesting that the general was expressing his personal opinion or spoke ambiguously and had been misunderstood. Whatever the case may be, the acquisition of the new helicopters has been approved and the order should be placed before the end of this year.
The PAF seems to use the term attack helicopter to refer to any armed helicopter and not just dedicated attack designs. This would explain the inclusion of the UK on the list – Britain does not have a dedicated attack helicopter design but the army version of the AgustaWestland Lynx can (and has been) be armed with guns and missiles.
Likewise, the PAF refers to its current force of MD Helicopters MG 520 light armed helicopters as attack helicopters. “What we are going to get are armed attack helicopters ... that can carry more payload than the MG 520,” Okol told AFP. The PAF is also upgrading its MG 520s.
The Denel Rooivalk is not currently in production, but the company could restart manufacture if it received a suitable order. The company has been redelivering Rooivalks upgraded to operational standard to the South African Air Force, a process that should be concluded next month.