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MONUSCO may lose Rooivalk helicopters

01 March 2018

The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) may have to give up its Denel Rooivalk attack helicopters, three of which are currently deployed in Goma by the South African Air Force (SAAF) on behalf of the mission’s Force Intervention Brigade (FIB).

Two Rooivalks escort a UN delegation in the DRC's North Kivu province in February 2014. The attack helicopter's first operational deployment attracted foreign interest, according to South African defence officials. (MONUSCO)Two Rooivalks escort a UN delegation in the DRC's North Kivu province in February 2014. The attack helicopter's first operational deployment attracted foreign interest, according to South African defence officials. (MONUSCO)

The African Defence Review cited South African National Defence Force (SANDF) sources as saying the United Nations have initiated talks with South Africa regarding the possible repatriation of the three Rooivalks as a cost-saving measure.

MONUSCO is facing a significant cut in its budget following the US decision in 2017 to reduce its funding for peacekeeping operations. Its budget was reduced to USD1.14 billion for 2017–18 from USD1.31 billion. As a result, the United Nations has had to reduce the authorised troop strength of the mission, while looking for other ways to save costs. A UN Secretary General report on MONUSCO dated 2 October 2017 noted that “operational reductions include cuts to air support”.

MONUSCO’s only other attack helicopters are Ukrainian Army Aviation Mi-24s which, while reportedly cheaper to operate than the Rooivalk, lack the latter’s sophisticated sensor suite, so cannot provide the same intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capability or carry out operations at night.

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