Taiwan to receive first batch of US attack helicopters

Taiwan to receive first batch of US attack helicopters
AH-64 Apache longbow helicopters fly during an air show at the graduation ceremony of Israeli air force pilots in the Negev desert, on June 27, 2013.

TAIPEI - Taiwan is set to receive the first batch of attack helicopters ordered from the United States next month, after the US government ended its two-week shutdown, a report said Friday.

The $6.5 billion arms deal, including a fleet of 30 advanced Apache Longbow helicopters, was announced in 2008, causing anger in China which claims sovereignty over Taiwan and opposes arms sales to the island.

The first six Apache AH-64Es, the latest variant of one of the world's most powerful attack helicopters, are expected to be delivered to the southern port of Kaohsiung as early as November 4, the state Central News agency said, citing unnamed military sources.

The Taiwanese army will become the first force outside the US to introduce the variant, the report said.

Delivery for the choppers was originally set for October but has been delayed by the US government shutdown, it added.

The US government reopened for business Thursday after President Barack Obama signed a bill ending the two-week shutdown and extending the Treasury's borrowing authority.

The second batch of Apache AH-64Es are scheduled to arrive in December while the remaining choppers will be delivered by the end of 2014, the report said without elaborating.

Taiwan's defence officials declined to comment on the report.

Taiwan and China split in 1949 after a civil war. However, Beijing still regards the island as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, prompting Taipei to seek more weaponry mainly from the United States.

Tensions between the two sides have eased markedly since Ma Ying-jeou became Taiwan's president in 2008 on a China-friendly platform.

But Ma has stressed that Taiwan needs to maintain sufficient self-defence and will continue to acquire arms from the United States.

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