Rooivalk deployed to Mozambique?

Is South Africa’s Rooivalk attack helicopter heading for Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province?

General Maphwanya

In his first official briefing earlier this month on the military intervention there, Chief of the South African National Defence Force (CSANDF), General Rudzani Maphwanya, was cautious about confirming such a possibility.

South Africa is part of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) combatting ISIS-aligned Al Sunnah wa Jama’ah (ASWJ) extremists insurgents in the north of that country. Besides South Africa, the SADC Troop Contributing Countries to SAMIM are Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lesotho, Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia, in collaboration with the host country’s armed forces. Rwanda also supplied troops at the invitation of Mozambique.

The SANDF’s Operation VIKELA follows an extraordinary summit of SADC in Maputo, Mozambique last year. Initially South Africa’s contribution consisted of Special Forces that have now been augmented with infantry, medical, engineer and counter-IED units. SAMIM also has a maritime component that includes the South African Navy frigate SAS Spioenkop.

Whilst SAMIM has air assets, like transport aircraft, General Maphwanya was reluctant to divulge details on operational capabilities. Asked about the Rooivalk, he said: “We are not denying or confirming that we are considering deploying the Rooivalk or any other attack helicopters that SADC as a region has.”

Since 2013 South Africa’s Rooivalk and Oryx medium transport helicopters have been deployed to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as part of the United Nations peace support mission MONUSCO Force Intervention Brigade (FIB). The Rooivalk in particular was successful in routing rebel groups, earning high praise from the head of MONUSCO.

The Rooivalk was designed for tree-top level, all-weather, night-time operations, capable of delivering significant and accurate firepower. Whilst the ASWJ terrorists have been suppressed and the threat degraded, as General Maphwanya outlined, calls have been made for air support of operations in the dense forest terrain of Cabo Delgado. This was after some SAMIM losses, including a South African soldier.

 Sam J Basch reports.