Grounded Apaches expected to take to the air next week

Staff writer, with CNA

Thu, Feb 06, 2014 - Page 3

Taiwan is to start putting its 12 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters back into service next week, nearly two months after it grounded the aircraft after being notified by the US of a failure in the model.

“The grounding of the Apaches is set to be lifted on Feb. 11,” a Taiwanese military source said yesterday.

Army Aviation Special Forces pilots will be able to fly the helicopters once they are fitted with new main transmission boxes, according to the source, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.

The army will finish replacing the transmission boxes on the helicopters by the end of this month, the source said, but those whose transmission boxes have already been replaced and tested will go into service on Tuesday.

The 12 aircraft are part of a 30-helicopter package ordered from the US in June 2011 at a cost of more than US$2 billion. The model E is the latest in the Apache attack helicopter series.

Taiwan received its first delivery of six Apache helicopters in November last year, followed by a second batch early last month.

The helicopters the nation has received so far were grounded after it received word from the US in mid-December of a main transmission failure in one of the Apache AH-64Es in service in the US Army.

No problems have been found so far in the helicopters received in Taiwan, but the transmissions are still being replaced as a precaution, the source said.

Even though the helicopters were kept out of service, ground and simulation training continued, army officers have said.

The final three batches of six aircraft with new transmission boxes are scheduled to arrive in Taiwan next month, May and July respectively, the source said.

The US and Taiwan are the only countries to have used the AH-64E model so far.