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Defense Ministry grounds newly acquired Apaches

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taiwan has ordered the grounding of all its newly acquired AH-64E Apache attack helicopters after it was informed by the United States of a malfunction in the helicopters, Defense Minister Yen Ming (嚴明) said yesterday.

Speaking during a legislative session yesterday, Yen confirmed to lawmakers that the MND was just informed that the U.S. military had found a certain transmission malfunction with the model of the attack helicopter previously purchased by Taiwan from the U.S.

“We have received information from the U.S. that this model of Apache helicopter needs to be grounded pending thorough inspections,” Yen told lawmakers yesterday.

The minister said the Taiwanese military is capable of conducing examinations of the AH-64E Apache attack helicopters and that there is no need to send the aircraft back to the U.S. for safety inspections.

He also stressed that Taiwan does not need to pay extra money for safety inspections because the arms deal already covered the fees applicable therein.

Asked to comment, Army Chief of Staff General Hau Yi-chih (郝以知) told the Central News Agency yesterday that the Army received the notice from the U.S. on Tuesday afternoon.

For the safety of all pilots, the Army Command has ordered the whole fleet to be grounded until a full-scale check can ensure full operational safety, he added.

Transmission Failure

According to the ministry's understanding, the U.S. found that one of the five planetary carrier assembly nuts on the aircraft is prone to lose torque, a likely reason behind the aircraft's transmission failure problems.

The U.S. side is currently probing possible reasons for the malfunction and the R.O.C. Army has indicated it cannot confirm when the attack helicopters will be able to operate again until further notice, Hau added.

Taiwan bought a total of 30 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters for NT$59.31 billion (US$2.01 billion) under a deal announced in 2008 by then-U.S. President George W. Bush, the military said.

The first batch of six Apache helicopters, part of an order of 30, officially joined the Army during a delivery ceremony at a southern Tainan military base last Friday at which President Ma Ying-jeou presided.

The second batch of Apaches is scheduled to be delivered to Taiwan early next year, with the last batch to arrive by the end of 2014, the military has said.

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Two AH-64E Apache attack helicopters hover in this undated file photo. Taiwan has ordered all of its AH-64E Apache attack helicopters to be grounded after the government was informed by the United States regarding a malfunction of the model, Defense Minister Yen Ming (嚴明) said yesterday.

(CNA )

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