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Taiwan grounds Apache helicopters after less than a week
Boeing informed Army of technical problem
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2013-12-18 05:25 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The military ordered its Apache AH-64E helicopters grounded Wednesday on advice from the United States less than a week after presenting them to the public.

The first six of 30 attack helicopters of a type known as the ‘Guardian’ were officially inaugurated at a Tainan Army base on December 13, even though they arrived in the country early last month.

After manufacturer Boeing informed Taiwan of a transmission failure problem in a message which arrived Tuesday, the Army ordered the immediate grounding of the six aircraft, Army Chief of Staff Hao Yii-jy said.

Defense Minister Yen Ming said that according to the contract, Taiwan would not have to pay for eventual repairs, which would take place on the island. It was not immediately known how long the work would last and when the helicopters could resume flying, reports said. A team of US staff already in Taiwan had begun inspections of the craft, according to reports.

The whole Apache deal was worth NT$59.31 billion (US$2 billion) and formed part of a US$6.4 billion (NT$189 billion) arms package announced in 2008. The contract also included 1,000 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles and 66 Hellfire Longbow missile launchers. A second Apache delivery was expected early next year, with all 30 becoming operation by the end of 2014, reports said.

The Guardian started operating in the US Army earlier this year, and the only other countries to use the helicopter so far were Taiwan and Greece, reports said. The craft comes equipped with a sophisticated radar system which can automatically detect and prioritize fixed and moving targets on land, sea and in the air. With the right software, it can also guide and control unmanned aircraft or drones.

Taiwan’s Army sent at least 60 pilots to the US in November last year to begin training on the AH-64E. The Apache joined the Bell 60 AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters which Taiwan purchased in 1990. Critics of the Apache deal would have preferred the Army to upgrade its Cobras or buy new ones, reports said.

The new helicopter was praised by commentators as an effective force against tanks and armored people carriers, eventually after an invasion. However, the relentless strengthening of China’s People Liberation Army also meant that the other side could knock out airports in Taiwan with cruise missiles and render the helicopters ineffectual, commentators said.

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