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6 more Apache helicopters to arrive in January

TAIPEI -- A second batch of six AH-64E Apache attack helicopters is scheduled to arrive in Taiwan Jan. 2, Deputy Defense Minister Andrew Hsia said yesterday.

“The helicopters have been loaded aboard a ship for delivery from the United States,” Hsia said at a Legislative Yuan committee hearing on progress in Taiwan-U.S. military exchanges and Taiwan's arms procurement programs.

Hsia added, however, that if the U.S. has not yet announced a service resumption for this type of helicopter by then, the newly delivered choppers will be grounded for safety checks immediately after their arrival.

He was responding to questions by opposition Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tsai Huang-liang, who expressed concern about when the first batch of Apache choppers can resume service and if the second batch will be flightworthy.

Taiwan took delivery of six Apache choppers in early November, all of which have been grounded for safety checks since mid-December after receiving notification of a malfunction in a helicopter of the same type used by the U.S. Army.

Tsai asked Hsia why Taiwan would have bought defective choppers and who should be held accountable.

In response, Hsia said the Model E is the latest in the Apache attack helicopter series.

“The aircraft is also an extremely high performance attack helicopter. The grounding is mainly out of safety concerns,” Hsia said, adding that the U.S. will assume full responsibility based on the warranty that comes with the helicopters.

Taiwan's Army was notified Dec. 17 of a main transmission failure in an AH-64E Apache helicopter being used by the U.S. military. The U.S. and Taiwan are the only two countries that use the latest model of Apache helicopters.

The Army has since suspended all of its Apache training operations pending a full investigation conducted by the U.S. into the cause of the malfunction.

It was the first such problem faced by the new Apache helicopter since it was put into service by the U.S. military earlier this year, a military source said.

Technical specialists from U.S.-based aerospace company Boeing, which manufactures the Apache helicopters, have come to Taiwan to help conduct the safety checks, the source added.

President Ma Ying-jeou presided over a delivery ceremony for the first batch of six Apache choppers at an Army Aviation Special Forces base in Tainan Dec. 13.

The six aircraft are part of a 30-helicopter package purchased by Taiwan at a cost of more than US$2 billion. Delivery will be completed by the end of 2014, according to military officials.

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