Mon, Jan 22, 2018 - Page 1 News List

New Apache team to take off this year

CHOPPER ROTATION:The army plans to phase out its Bell UH-1H helicopters by the end of the year, even though there are not enough Black Hawks to replace them

By Lo Tien-pin and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer and CNA

Helicopters from Taiwan’s second squadron of Apache attack helicopters are seen in an undated photograph provided by the Military News Agency.

Photo: Courtesy of the Military News Agency

The nation’s second squadron of Apache attack helicopters is likely to enter service later this year after the first squadron was commissioned last year by the Army Aviation and Special Forces Command, an army officer said yesterday.

After undergoing rigorous testing, the second Apache combat team is expected to be commissioned in the middle of this year, said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The launch of the first squadron has shown that the Apache helicopters are combat-ready, while the formation of the additional squadron means it has full combat and defense capabilities, he said.

The command’s 601st Brigade has been training personnel and upgrading its equipment since 2013, the command said, adding that after more than two years of training, one of the two Apache squadrons was commissioned in June last year and has since then contributed greatly to improving the army’s combat capability.

Taiwan in 2008 ordered 30 Boeing AH-64E Apache helicopters from the US for about NT$59.3 billion (US$2.01 billion at the current exchange rate), including personnel training and logistics, and took delivery of the aircraft from November 2013 to October 2014.

One of the helicopters was destroyed in April 2014 after it crashed during a training flight in Taoyuan.

The AH-64E is also known as a “tankbuster.” It is equipped with powerful target acquisition radar that is capable of 360-degree operation for up to 8km, and can simultaneously track up to 128 targets and engage the 16 most dangerous, the command said, adding that it carries 16 Hellfire missiles and can deploy them in less than 30 seconds.

In related news, the army has decided to start phasing out its Bell UH-1H helicopters by the end of this year, even though there are not enough Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters to replace them, an anonymous defense official said yesterday.

Although the military originally intended to replace the army’s aging UH-1H fleet with the 60 UH-60Ms it bought from the US, half of the Black Hawks were later allotted to other aviation services, the official said.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) each ordered the reassignment of 15 aircraft to the Air Rescue Group and the National Airborne Service Corps respectively, leaving only 30 Black Hawks for the army, the official said.

While the army has held off retiring the UH-1Hs, their ready rate and maintenance costs are no longer acceptable, the official said.

The army believes that the government should buy another 32 UH-60M helicopters from the US, if budget allows, the official said.

Taiwan from 1970 to 1976 built 118 UH-1H helicopters under license, meaning that the last batch of airframes are 42 years old, the official said.

The army intends to donate some of the phased-out aircraft to technical training schools, they added.

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