Taiwan put its second squadron of U.S.-made AH-64 Apache attack helicopters into service at a base in the northwestern city of Taoyuan.
In a ceremony on Tuesday, July 17, the defense ministry commissioned the 15 helicopters, which will join the first set that were put into service with the Army’s 601st Brigade last year. The Apaches were commissioned after nearly five years of training and infrastructure upgrades.
U.S. officers were on-hand from Hawaii to observe the commissioning, the South China Morning Post reported a Taiwanese military source as saying.
Taiwan purchased 30 AH-64E helicopters from the U.S. as part of a $6.5 billion deal announced in 2008. It is the first foreign force to use the latest version of Boeing’s AH-64, nicknamed the “tank killer.”
The last batch of helicopters was delivered in October 2014, but only 29 were entered into service as one crashed during training in April 2014. The squadron is operated by the 601st Brigade based in Longtan.
Taiwan has boosted its military capabilities in recent years amid tensions with China. Last month, the U.S. Department of Defense awarded BAE Systems a nearly $84 million contract to produce 36 Assault Amphibious Vehicles for Taiwan.
Taipei has also received permission from the Dutch shipbuilder RH Marine to upgrade and modernize two of its aging Hai Lung-class submarines purchased in the 1980s.
Taiwan never formally declared independence from China, which still sees the island as a province.
The ‘tank killer’ AH-64
Boeing describes the AH-64 Apache as “the world’s most advanced multi-role combat helicopter.”
It has a wingspan of 17.15 feet (5.227m) and can climb more than 2,000 feet per minute. It features laser, infrared and other systems to locate, track and attack targets and can fire precision Hellfire missiles, 70mm rockets and ammunition from a 30mm automatic cannon, according to the company.
The Apache is capable of classifying up to 128 targets in less than a minute.