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New helicopter from South Africa.

New Helicopter from South Africa

South Africa has moved a major step ahead in its continuous quest for self-sufficiency in high-technology weapons systems. In an article published in issue 1/1989, <<If You Can't Buy It, Make It>>, ARMADA International provided a brief survey of Armscor's latest achievements in the field of vehicles and weapons. Now, with the recent roll-out of the Rooivalk XH-2 combat support helicopter, Armscor's Atlas Aircraft Corporation is demonstrating to the world its determination to assert its independence in the area of rotary aircraft as well. So far, South Africa has demonstrated its ability considerably to improve and stretch the life of its current equipment. However, the first signs that new developments were in the offing appeared in 1985 when Atlas flew its XH-1 Alpha prototype. The light tandem-seat helicopter relied heavily on Alouette III components and was rudimentary both in terms of avionics and armament, but the airframe was of indigenous design and marked a new step in the helicopter manufacturing learning curve.

The Rooivalk (Kestrel in Afrikaans) is a far more ambitious project: it is a twin-engined helicopter in the seven to eight tonne class. It was scheduled to make its maiden flight at time of going to press, and although Armscor provided photographs of the helicopter, little was released on the avionics or other technical details.

The rotor head is definitely of SA 330 Puma origin, but although Armscor did indeed confirm that the engines were new builds based on substantially improved versions of the Turmo (incidentally already used on the South African Pumas), the manufacturer declined to provide more technical data. The transmission, for example, must have required a good deal of redevelopment work: with its tandem-seat configuration, its chin-mounted gun and night vision and targeting equipment in the nose, the design was nose-heavy: this meant that the engines had to be moved aft of the rotor mast to restore the centre of gravity (on the Puma the engines are ahead of the rotor mast). This in turn entailed entirely redesigning the transmission between the engine power pick-up points and the bevel gear.

The manufacturer indicates that the main rotor disc has a diameter of 15.08 metres, which is 50 cm smaller than the original French Puma (the blades are of local manufacture). Thus, the maximum take-off weight of <<8000 kg+>> compared with the Puma's 7 500 kg suggest either a longer airfoil chord and/or a more than marginal improvement in engine and/or transmission train performance.

The turreted gun is a low-recoil 20 mm calibre weapon of the Cobra type, and might be an improved version of the 20 mm GA1 gun used on the Alpha. In the latter, the gun was slaved to the gunner's Mk. 2 helmet-mounted gun sight similar to the one used on the South African Air Force Mirage F1s to fire their heat-seeking Magic and V3 missiles.

The Rooivalk is armed with short-range heat-seeking V3 air-to-air missiles. Photos show that preliminary zero-airspeed missile separation firing tests have already been carried out using a grounded Puma test airframe. The V3s (also known as Kukris) are carried on top of the stub wing, leaving the two conventional underslung hardpoints free for rocket pods and anti-tank guided weapons. Similar tests have probably been carried out with these as well, but the photograph has been masked in that area to conceal their type.

The V3 was originally designed for the Mirage III and F1 and is compatible with Magic and Sidewinder electrical connectors and mountings. The fragmentation warhead of the 74 kg missile is said to be effective within a radius of nine metres and minimum launching range is 300 metres.

In developing the Rooivalk, Armscor was originally aiming at a production lauch around 1994. However, because of the considerably reduced military activity in Southern Africa in recent months, actual production might be postponed sine die.

PHOTO : Assembly of the drive train on the XDM airframe. The latter is of conventional

PHOTO : pod-and-boom all-metal construction.

PHOTO : The XH-2 Rooivalk has both an air-to-air and anti-tank capability in addition to a night

PHOTO : combat capability.

PHOTO : Initial test launch of V3 air-to-air missile. Note masked underslung hardpoints.
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Copyright 1990, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Rooivalk XH-2 combat support helicopter
Publication:Armada International
Date:Feb 1, 1990
Previous Article:Sextant Avionique: comprehensive integration.
Next Article:General Dynamics Stinger RMP deployed in Europe.

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