Wednesday, February 01, 2017
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SA attack helicopters in renewed action in the DRC

Two Rooivalk attack helicopters painted in United Nations colours in the DRC.The United Nations (UN) called in two South African Air Force (SAAF) attack helicopters to strike rebel forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Saturday March 1.

This follows the intensification of the joint MONUSCO (UN Mission in the DRC) and FARDC (Armed Forces of the DRC) operations against the ADF (Allied Democratic Forces) rebel forces in the DRC.

At 14h55 local time, two SAAF Rooivalk helicopters attached to MONUSCO fired on the ADF base at Saha Sitisa in the Mbau area, northeast of Beni (North Kivu). The helicopters used both their 20mm internal cannon and 70mm FFAR unguided rockets.

This intervention is part of the overall support by MONUSCO and the FARDC against the ADF rebels since the beginning of Operation Sukola 1.

The Rooivalk helicopters have earned high praise from Martin Kobler, the head of MONUSCO.

"The high accuracy (of the Rooivalk) enables us to achieve our clear objective: to end the recurring attacks by the ADF against the civilian population," he said.

Following the intensification of operations, Kobler urged the fighters to lay down their arms.

"I urge the latest ADF fighters to lay down arms immediately and to visit camps of MONUSCO," the Special Representative of the Secretary-General said.

He noted that MONUSCO remains determined to use all means at its disposal to provide protection to all the people who continue to live under the oppression of armed groups.

Three SAAF Rooivalk helicopters, belonging to 16 Squadron, were airlifted to the DRC at the end of October 2013, forming part of the aviation unit of MONUSCO and its Force Intervention Brigade (FIB). South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi's soldiers are all part of the United Nations (UN) intervention brigade to bring the various rebel groups operating in the east of the DRC under control.

The Rooivalk force has been involved in several attacks, possibly up to fifteen, on rebel forces since their arrival, in addition to flying reconnaissance and escort missions. It is believed that a further three Rooivalk helicopters are being prepared to replace the current aircraft in theatre.

The SAAF also has a number of Oryx medium transport helicopters operating on behalf of the UN in the DRC.