Fri, Mar 13, 2015 - Page 4 News List

UH-60 pilots to train in US

‘WRONG-HEADED POLICY’:Legislators questioned the allocation of 15 of the Black Hawk attack helicopters to search-and-rescue, as they cannot land on patrol boats

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

The nation is to send 32 pilot-instructors to the US for flight training on UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters later this year as part of a bilateral arms purchase agreement, but legislators continue to question the government’s decision to allocate some of the new choppers to rescue and disaster-relief missions.

Minister of the Interior Chen Wei-zen (陳威仁) said the pilot-instructor groups are to head to the US in July for the five-month training program and return to Taiwan at the end of the year, accompanying the delivery of another new batch of the helicopters.

At the meeting of the legislature’s Internal Administration Committee, Chen said US training of Taiwan’s aviation personnel on flying UH-60s was included in the terms of the government’s US$3.1 billion procurement of 60 Black Hawk helicopters, with final delivery expected by the end of 2018.

However, some legislators criticized the government’s overall policy on the program, citing the decision to incorporate 15 Black Hawks into the National Airborne Service Corps (NASC) under the Ministry of the Interior for rescue and disaster relief missions.

The original intent of the procurement was to put the helicopters into military service under the Ministry of National Defense (MND) because the Black Hawks are sophisticated attack helicopters armed with advanced weapons and are primarily designed for combat.

“The plan is for this NASC helicopter squadron to be based in Taichung. They will be dispatched for civilian rescues and other emergency missions in support of MOI agencies, including the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) and the National Fire Agency,” Chen said.

Democratic Progressive Legislator Chuang Ruei-hsiung (莊瑞雄) said the interior ministry’s plan is flawed because the Black Hawks cannot land on CGA boats or other small ships used by the navy to patrol the nation’s nearshore waters.

“The deck area on these patrol ships is too small for these helicopters to land. So it is impossible for the Black Hawks to engage in search-and-rescue and other disaster-relief missions at sea. This is a wrong-headed policy and is a total waste of taxpayers’ money,” Chuang said.

NASC Director-General Tung Chian-cheng (董劍城) responded by saying the NASC is currently training for seaborne missions with the existing AS365 Dauphin 2 squadron, which are made by the Eurocopter consortium.

Tung admitted that the inadequate deck space on these ships for UH-60 helicopters to land is a big problem, and no solution has been found yet.

However, Tung said the Black Hawks can fly longer distances than the Dauphin 2s and he said he is confident the new helicopters could carry out most seaborne rescue and relief missions from their airport base.

Tung added that plans can be adjusted and revised when the pilot-instructors return back to Taiwan at the end of the year with the new helicopter delivery, as the NASC will conduct more joint exercises at sea with CGA patrol boats.

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