Taiwan is expected to receive six Apache attack helicopters in October, military sources said.
The six AH-64Es will be the first batch of an order of 30 of the most advanced US attack helicopters that the military bought for NT$59.31 billion (US$2.04 billion at current exchange rates) in 2008. The last batch is planned to be delivered before July 2014.
The contract to build the helicopters was awarded to US manufacturer Boeing in October 2010 and the first one came out of the Boeing hangar in Mesa, Arizona, last year in a ceremony presided over by Army Commander General Lee Hsiang-chou (李翔宙).
Pilots and maintenance crew have been sent to the US to learn how to fly and maintain thenew fleet.
The Apache helicopters have played a vital role in US operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and have been upgraded from models A to B, C and D based on the US experience in those theaters.
The model E is the latest and most advanced version.
In addition to its powerful attack capability, the AH-64E can serve as an operations management platform and can control several unmanned drones simultaneously.
According to information provided by Boeing, the model E can carry a maximum load of 10 tonnes and has a maximum speed of 365kph, a cruising speed of 265kph and an effective range of 480km in radius.
The helicopter is virtually an airborne arsenal.
In addition to a 30mm automatic cannon with 1,200 rounds of ammunition, it is armed with 16 Hellfire Missiles and four air-to-air missiles.
It can be fitted with Stinger Missiles, Sidewinder Missiles or TOW Missiles, depending on mission requirements.
It is equipped with a new four-blade rotor that improves the helicopter’s speed and lift ability, with less noise.
The US Army took delivery of its first AH-64E only at the end of 2011, and Taiwan will be the first country other than the US to deploy the helicopter.
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