Monday, January 14, 2013

Taiwan to get first batch of new Apache helicopters in October

Taiwan is expected to get six Apache attack helicopters in October this year, according to military sources.

The six AH-64Es will be the first batch of an order of 30 of the most advanced U.S. attack helicopters that the military bought for NT$59.31 billion (US$2.04 billion) in 2008. The last batch should be delivered before July 2014.

The contract to build the helicopters was awarded to U.S. manufacturer Boeing in October 2010 and the first one rolled out of the Boeing hangar in Mesa, Arizona 2012 in a ceremony presided over by Army Commander Gen. Lee Hsiang-chou.

Taiwan has sent seed pilots and maintenance crew to the U.S. to undergo training in flying and maintaining the new fleet.

The Apache helicopters have played a vital role in U.S. operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and have been upgraded from models A to B, C and D based on the U.S. 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 its builder, the model E can carry a maximum load of 10 tons and has a maximum speed of 365 kph, a cruising speed of 265 kph and an effective range of 480 km in radius.

The chopper is virtually an airborne arsenal. In addition to a 30 mm 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 U.S. Army took delivery of its first AH-64E only at the end of 2011, and Taiwan will be the world's first country other than the U.S. to deploy this type of attack chopper.

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