Taiwan may open by year-end a delayed competition for up to 12 new heavy firefighting helicopters. The National Firefighting Administration (NFA) has long eyed replacements for its ageing fleet of Boeing CH-47s, but the acquisition has been held back by budget constraints. Manufacturers hope the government will finally allocate enough funds in its 2005 budget to kick-start the programme.

A request for information could be released in the fourth quarter, followed by a 12-aircraft acquisition spread over three years, with deliveries starting in 2006.

Industry sources, however, warn that the budget request may be rejected. Funding shortfalls continue to impede the purchase of badly needed aircraft in Taiwan. The reorganisation last year of several government flying units - including the NFA, coastguard and police - under a newly combined aviation team has further slowed acquisitions (Flight International, 16-22 September 2003).

NFA's CH-47s are overdue for replacement. Aircraft being considered include the Eurocopter AS332L2 Super Puma, Kamov Ka-32 with Western avionics supplied by Israel Aircraft Industries and the Sikorsky S-70A Fire Hawk.


Source: Flight International