Taipei, July 10 (CNA) Taiwan's Air Force formally commissioned three search-and-rescue helicopters purchased from France to beef up its disaster response capabilities at a ceremony in Taipei Tuesday.
The advanced EC225 Super Puma helicopters, which Eurocopter delivered to Taiwan's military last November, became the first Europe-made choppers to be incorporated into the Air Force's rescue squadron.
The ceremony was attended by President Ma Ying-jeou and several government officials.
At the ceremony, an EC225 showcased its capability to airlift people from the ground. Another six-minute demonstration featured a S-70C helicopter, currently the backbone of the rescue squadron.
Formations of Taiwan's main combat aircraft -- F-16A/B jet fighters, Mirage 2000s and IDFs -- also flew over the ceremony site to mark the occasion.
The Air Force's rescue squadron mainly consists of S-70C choppers from United States-based Sikorsky Aircraft Corp.
Compared with S-70Cs that use a four-blade rotor, the all-weather EC225 helicopters have five-blade main rotors that can reduce vibration levels and increase capacity to up to 24 passengers.
The three EC225 choppers, which cost US$110 million, are also equipped with de-icing systems, life rafts, automatic flight control systems and other advanced devices.
The EC225 was first developed by Eurocopter in 1998. The helicopters are 19.5 meters long, have a maximum take-off weight of 11.2 tons and a range of 857 kilometers. The S-70Cs have a take-off weight of 9 tons and a range of 550 kilometers.
(By Elaine Hou)