Taiwan's Ministry of National Defence (MND) is planning to lift the grounding of its 12 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters next month, an undisclosed Taiwan's military source has revealed.
The source was quoted by Central News Agency as saying that the grounding is scheduled to be lifted in mid-February following receipt of new main transmission boxes, which will enable the Army Aviation Special Forces pilots to fly the helicopters.
The US Army has also started replacement of the main transmission boxes on its helicopters, the source added.
Taiwan had grounded the first two batches of Apaches it had received from the US for safety checks in December 2013, following reports of a transmission malfunction in a helicopter of the same type in service with the US Army.
Despite being grounded, the military has continued with ground and simulation training as no problems were found in the helicopters, according to source, who also noted that the main transmission boxes for the next three batches will be removed for further checks prior to shipment from the US.
A total of 30 AH-64E Apaches were ordered by the Taiwanese MND under a TWD$59.31bn ($2bn) deal from the US in 2008, to help supplement the national army's ageing AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopter fleet.
The deliveries of third, fourth and fifth batches of Apache helicopters are scheduled for March, May and July 2014, respectively.
Nicknamed 'Guardian,' the AH-64E is a heavily-armed helicopter featuring powerful, fuel-efficient T700-GE-701D engines, enhanced rotor blade technology and electronics, as well as improved aircraft handling, performance and agility at higher altitudes.
The helicopter features a joint tactical radio system, electro-optical and infrared (EO/IR) sensors to improve pilots' situational awareness and an oversea capacity, enabling potential strikes on smaller ships, and has also been ordered by the Indonesian and South Korean armies.
Image: AH-64E Apache helicopter during a training exercise. Photo: courtesy of captain Jesse Paulsboe.