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Fog prevents Apaches from conducting test flights: report

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Low visibility due to heavy fog in the southern city of Tainan prevented the Army from conducting test flights of its 12 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters bought from the U.S., a military source told local media yesterday.

An unidentified military source told the Chinese-language United Evening News yesterday that the Army Aviation Special Forces were scheduled to conduct test flights of the helicopters with newly replaced transmission boxes yesterday morning.

However, due to heavy fog that reduced the visibility to 400 meters or lower near the Tainan Army base, the Army decided to postpone the scheduled test flight for safety reasons, the source said.

The R.O.C. Army announced last week that it is ready to conduct test flights on its Apache attack helicopter fleet, more than a month after grounding the aircraft following a failure reported by the U.S. Army involving the same model.

The Army said it has received new main transmission boxes from the U.S. and has begun replacing them. It is also ready to conduct test flights near the Tainan base.

Meanwhile, the source told the newspaper yesterday that the Army's 12 Apache choppers will all be flying to an Army aviation base in northern Taoyuan County soon, as the nation is ready to receive the next batch of helicopters from the U.S. in mid-March.

Taiwan received its first batch of six Apache helicopters last November, followed by a second batch of another six in early January.

The 12 aircraft are part of an order of 30 choppers that Taiwan bought for NT$59.31 billion (US$2.01 billion) under a deal announced in 2008 by then-U.S. President George W. Bush.

The total sum also includes logistics, training and construction of a barracks area, according to the Defense Ministry.

The aircraft are expected to greatly improve the mobility and firepower of Taiwan's military, according to the ministry.

The rest of the 18 choppers are scheduled to be delivered to Taiwan in three batches in March, May and July.

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