Taiwan has received six Boeing AH-64E Apache attack helicopters, the first instalment of a 30-aircraft contract signed in June 2011.

The aircraft arrived by ship and will need their main rotors and radar masts installed, says a source familiar with the programme.

Media reports in Taiwan, quoting defence minister Yen Ming, say a second batch of Apaches will arrive in late December, and all 30 examples are expected to arrive by the end of 2014. The deal was conducted under the US government’s Foreign Military Sales mechanism.

Taiwan is the first international customer to receive the AH-64E, which was formerly designated AH-64 Block III.

The Block III programme upgrades the engines and transmission system on the AH-64, restoring speed and lift performance lost after two decades of service added weight to the original airframes. The Block III variant also introduces new software and connectivity, allowing pilots to simultaneously control unmanned air vehicles and their payloads.

The Apache deal was initially announced in 2008, when the US Department of Defense notified Congress of a plan to sell Taiwan 30 aircraft, plus upgrade packages for Taipei's four Northrop Grumman E-2C Hawkeye airborne warning and control system aircraft, and badly needed spares for the island's Lockheed Martin F-16A/B and Northrop F-5 fighters.

Beijing protested angrily at the time of the 2008 announcement, although the package did not include 66 new-build F-16C/D Block 52 aircraft, which would be of far greater deterrent value in the event of a conflict between China and Taiwan.

In the years since the 2008 announcement, Taiwan has yet to secure the new fighter aircraft, although the USA has agreed to a major upgrade programme for its 144 F-16A/Bs. This will see the type receive upgraded avionics and active electronically scanned array radars.

Taiwan's army already has an active fleet of 62 Bell AH-1W Cobra attack helicopters, says Flightglobal's Ascend Online Fleets database.

Source: FlightGlobal.com