Taiwan takes delivery of its first Apache helicopters

Nov. 8, 2013 at 6:02 AM
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TAIPEI, Taiwan, Nov. 8 (UPI) -- Taiwan has taken delivery of six knocked-down Apache AH-64E helicopters from the United States as part of a larger order worth $2 billion.

Defense Minister Yen Ming announced the arrival of the helicopters -- the first of 30 ordered from Boeing -- during a question-and-answer session this week in the country's Parliament, the Legislative Yuan, the China Post reported.

"The six Apache helicopters arrived in southern Kaohsiung Harbor," Yen said.

The four-bladed twin engine helicopters are being reassembled by army personnel and will undergo ground tests at the harbor site before being flown to an army Aviation Special Forces base in southern Tainan, The China Post reported.

The military said a second batch of helicopters is scheduled to arrive in December and will be commissioned next year.

The army has sent 61 pilots to the United States for flight training.

The Post reported Taiwan sealed the deal for the 30 Apache helicopters with then-U.S. President George W. Bush in 2008.

Yen also said buying submarines from the United States is the country's next priority.

The Bush administration offered in 2008 to provide eight diesel-electric submarines to Taiwan, but so far, no significant progress toward the sale has been made, the Post reported.

China Post reported Navy Chief of Staff Kao Tien-chung said the navy is considering a replacement for its Chaparral missile systems that were bought in 1972 and are deployed on its Lafayette-class frigates.

The self-propelled surface-to-air Chaparral system, based on the AIM-9 Sidewinder, entered service with the U.S. Army in 1969 and was phased out by 1998.

Kao said the navy is looking at the domestically produced Tien-Chien -- Sky Sword -- II air-to-air missile system that could be in use with the navy starting in 2017.

Sky Sword II was developed by the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology during the 1990s for the Taiwanese air force.

Delivery of the Taiwan order comes after South Korea announced it had chosen Boeing's Apache Guardian AH-64E helicopters in a deal worth $1.6 billion.

The fleet of 36 new advanced attack helicopters will play a crucial role in countering North Korean amphibious infiltrations into western border islands should they occur, The Korea Herald newspaper reported in May.

South Korean Defense Acquisition Program Administration said the Apache was chosen ahead of Bell's AH-1Z and the Turkish Aerospace Industries T-129, a joint development with AgustaWestland as the primary partner and based on its A129 Mangusta.

In September, South Korea awarded Longbow a $51 million contract for the supply of six fire control radars, spares and in-country support for the Apache helicopters.

Longbow, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, sold the systems as a foreign military sales contract, a statement from both companies said at the time.

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