A report due in to the US State Department and the Pentagon within the next month could re-open the stalled Taiwanese attack helicopter competition which was effectively frozen last year when the US government blocked the sale of Boeing AH-64D Apache Longbows to the island.

A high-level US team has been in Taiwan preparing a dossier on the current situation and its findings will be the key to any reversal of policy. Any sale of military hardware to Taiwan is ultra-sensitive, given the island's brittle relationship with mainland China.


But much has changed in the wake of the terrorist atrocities of 11 September, with nations such as Pakistan declaring their support for US foreign policy – a situation almost unthinkable prior to the events in New York and Washington. US President George Bush has also visited China as part of his attempts to shore up support for the US-led coalition.

If the competition is re-opened it will likely be a straight fight between Boeing, which will again offer the Apache and Bell Helicopter, which attempted to steal a march on its rival last year. Bell launched a counter-bid when Boeing's initial offer broke down, proposing that Taiwan should select the AH-1Z Cobra instead of the Apache.

Bell points to the fact that Taiwan already operates AH-1Ws and that it could offer a more economically viable proposition, especially as Taiwan's infrastructure is geared up to operate with the AH-1 family.

Bell has also added more sting to the Cobra in the last 12 months after teaming up with Northrop Grumman to develop a version of the Longbow fire millemetric radar for the modernised AH-1Z. The aircraft had, until that point, lacked a fire control radar, putting it at a competitive disadvantage to the Apache.

Boeing was considered a firm favourite to secure the contract before US government intervention and believes it still has the aircraft of choice.

Source: Flight Daily News