MELBOURNE, Australia - At a July 17 ceremony at a Taiwanese Army base at Longtan the National Defense Ministry of Taiwan declared its Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopter fleet fully operational. The ceremony involved the commissioning into service of the second of two Apache Guardian squadrons forming the 601st Aviation Brigade. The first squadron achieved full operational capability back in July 2017.
With its fleet of 29 Apache Guardians now fully operational the Taiwanese Army fields a capability upgrade from its existing fleet of Bell AH-1W Super Cobras that began arriving in the 1990s.
The Apache Guardian acquisition forms part of a broader helicopter modernization effort that got underway around 2007. Taiwan's request for the sale of the Apaches dated earlier, as far back as April 2001, but due to political considerations it was not until October 2008 that Washington agreed to the sale and notified Congress of the pending FMS agreement. The contract for Taiwan's 30-unit Apache purchase - signed in June 2011 - came with an estimated at $2.5 billion price tag.
Taiwan took a first-batch delivery of six AH-64E Apaches on November 4, 2013, at the port city of Kaohsiung. But these were grounded due to transmission problems experienced on an American model later in December. A second six-unit batch, handed over to Taiwan in January 2014, was also kept grounded as ground maintenance crews replaced the transmission boxes on all 12 units. A third six-unit batch of AH-64E Apache attack helicopters, delivered on March 17, 2014, had already passed tests in the U.S. prior to handover, and thus were not affected by the transmission issue.
The final two six-unit batches were delivered to Taiwan equipped with new transmission boxes in October 2014. One unit was lost when it crashed into a residential building in northern Taiwan in April 2014.
The Taiwanese Apache Guardians are outfitted with the AN/APG-78 Longbow millimeter-wave radar allowing for day/night, all-weather missions. Weaponry includes Lockheed Martin AGM-114L/M Hellfire missiles.