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3 more Apache helicopters arrive at Tainan base

TAIPEI -- Three more of the six AH-64E Apache attack helicopters that arrived in Kaohsiung on Jan. 2 were trucked from the port to an air base in neighboring Tainan early Wednesday for assembly.

The helicopters left the port in Kaohsiung around 4 a.m. and arrived at an Army Aviation Special Forces base in Tainan at 5:55 a.m., military officials said.

The other three helicopters were trucked to the Tainan base a day earlier.

The six aircraft are part of a 30-helicopter package purchased by Taiwan from the United States at a cost of more than US$2 billion. The model E is the latest in the Apache attack helicopter series.

They were the second batch of Apache choppers delivered to Taiwan. A first batch of six helicopters arrived in early November and were flown from the port to the Tainan air base.

While the second batch was on its way, however, the U.S. notified Taiwan of a main transmission failure in one of the Apache AH-64Es in service in the U.S. Army in mid-December.

Taiwan grounded the first group of six choppers for safety checks, pending a full investigation by the U.S. into the cause of the malfunction, and was forced to transport the second batch of choppers to the base by truck.

The main transmission boxes of all 12 Apache helicopters in Taiwan have been removed and will be sent back to the U.S., with replacements expected to arrive soon and be installed by the end of the month, the Army Aviation Special Forces Command said.

Though the helicopters have been grounded, ground and simulation training will continue, it added.

Main transmission boxes on the third, fourth and fifth batches of the helicopters will be removed for further checks, before they can be shipped to Taiwan from the U.S., according to Taiwan's Army.

Those batches had previously been scheduled to arrive in March, May and July, respectively, but that may change as the U.S. will not ship the choppers before the transmission problem is resolved.

The U.S. and Taiwan are the only two countries that have used the latest Apache helicopter model so far.

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