DH - Defence Helicopter

Taiwan goes ahead with Apache Block III buy

10th June 2011 - 20:57 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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The US Army has confirmed that Taiwan will be the first customer for the AH-64D Apache Block III.

Col Shane Openshaw, PM Apache, said on 10 June that a contract for the Taiwanese aircraft had been signed. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) originally notified the US Congress of the potential sale in October 2008.

The deal for 30 aircraft, which was the number confirmed by Openshaw, could be worth some $2.5 billion according to the DSCA. The aircraft would be a major enhancement to Taiwanese capabilities.

The Block III is the most advanced variant of the attack helicopter. It has updated avionics and an improved dynamic system giving the aircraft better performance and greater interoperability with unmanned air systems and troops on the ground.

The aircraft for Taiwan will be part of the low-rate initial production batch. The first new build Apache Block III will be one of the aircraft for Taiwan and will go on the line in Mesa, Arizona, in October this year. Openshaw said he expected the Taiwanese aircraft to be delivered in the 2012-2013 timeframe.

David Koopersmith, Boeing's vice president attack helicopter programs, told Shephard that the company was still on track to deliver the first production remanufactured Apache Block III aircraft to the US Army in October. The first three aircraft are currently on the line and moving towards completion.

The US Army has an objective requirement for 690 Block III aircraft, but is expected to add a further 96 aircraft to that number. Koopersmith said that with the current level of investment the company could begin to deliver between seven and eight Block IIIs per month on the two lines at Mesa once the remaining Block II line converts over.

The company expects to see further foreign sales of the Apache and Koopersmith said he expected the next contract for the Block III to be signed in the Middle East. In October 2010 the DSCA announced a possible FMS to Saudi Arabia for 36 AH-64D Block III Apaches amongst a significant helicopter order from the kingdom.

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