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President touts newly acquired Apache choppers

2013/12/13 15:47:27

Taipei, Dec. 13 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou touted the capabilities of the newly acquired AH-64E Apache attack helicopters Friday at an official ceremony in southern Taiwan to mark the United States' delivery of the aircraft.

"The aircraft is the world's top attack helicopter" and will bolster Taiwan's combat capabilities, Ma said at the ceremony at an Army Aviation Special Forces base in Tainan.

Equipped with AN/APG-78 Longbow Fire Control Radar, the U.S.-made helicopter is good for both land and sea-based operations.

During his speech at the ceremony, Ma said the Republic of China (Taiwan) is a sovereign country and needs to maintain adequate national defense capabilities.

"A solid national defense is the basis of national security and also ensures the peaceful development of relations across the Taiwan Strait," he said.

Even though cross-strait ties are at their best in 60 years, Taiwan's military must remain vigilant, Ma said at the event where the Army demonstrated the capabilities of the newly acquired Apache helicopters. The U.S.-made helicopters were flown at low altitude, made to hover, and put through shift turns.

After the demonstration, Ma boarded one of the helicopters and was given a briefing by the pilot on the equipment and devices on the aircraft.

Donning a pilot's helmet, the president posed in the helicopter with a thumbs-up gesture.

At the ceremony, Army Commander General Lee Shying-jow vowed that the Army will continue to protect the country and contribute to the nation's development.

Defense Minister Yen Ming and other ranking government officials, as well as Christopher Maru, director of the American Institute in Taiwan's (AIT's) Taipei Office, also attended the ceremony.

AIT represents U.S. interests in Taiwan in the absence of diplomatic ties.

The six Apaches, which arrived in Taiwan in early November, are part of a 30-helicopter package purchased by Taiwan at cost of more than US$2 billion.

The procurement of the aircraft will greatly improve the Taiwan military's mobility and firepower, according to the defense ministry.

The model E is the latest in the Apache attack helicopter series.

The second batch of Apaches is scheduled to be delivered to Taiwan early next year, and the last batch by the end of 2014, the military said.

(By Elaine Hou)
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