Commissioning of Apache fleet not affected by recent scandal: Army
Taiwan’s Army on Saturday denied a local media report that the commissioning of its U.S.-made AH-64E Apache attack helicopters has been postponed as a result of a recent scandal over security breaches at one of its bases.
“We did not plan any commissioning ceremonies ( for the Apaches) this year,” the Army said, adding that flight training for the cutting-edge Apache helicopter model is proceeding as scheduled.
The statement was in response to a report in the Saturday edition of the Chinese-language Liberty Times, which said that the Army had postponed the commissioning of the helicopter fleet from July to sometime after September.
The paper said the recent security incident, in which an Apache pilot gave civilians access to the AH-64E helicopters, has affected the morale of officers and soldiers in the Army Aviation Special Forces Command, which is why the commissioning ceremony has been postponed.
The AH-64E Apache helicopter fleet, which was acquired from the U.S. over a one-year period, most likely will be commissioned after the Han Kuang military exercises in September, the news report said.
Asked when the commissioning ceremony will take place, the Army declined to give a definite date, saying only that “we will proceed in line with our schedule.”
At the center of the security scandal is Lt. Col. Lao Nai-cheng ( ), the deputy head of a helicopter squadron in Taoyuan under the Army Aviation Special Forces Command, who has since been removed from his post.
Lao was found to have brought a group of people, including TV hostess Janet Lee ( ), her relatives and friends, to see the Apaches at their base in Longtan March 29 without approval from his superiors. Some of the visitors even boarded an Apache to take photos.
The case came to light after Lee posted four photos of the tour on her Facebook page, including one of her in the chopper’s cockpit.
It was also found that Lao, a pilot in the Army’s 601st Aviation Brigade, had not returned an Apache flight helmet after a training mission last October, but rather had carried it off the base and worn it as part of a Halloween costume at a party at his home, according to a Defense Ministry investigation.
Taiwan has taken delivery of all 30 Apaches it purchased from the U.S. The Army held a delivery ceremony in December 2013 after Taiwan received the first batch of the Apache helicopters but has not yet formally commissioned the fleet.
The model E is the latest in the Apache attack helicopter series and Taiwan is among only a few countries using it so far.