The Taiwanese military formed a platoon of tactical transport helicopters this week, after receiving 26 Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawks from the United States.
The first batch of a total 60 utility helicopters arrived on the island earlier this year as part of a wholesale deal announced in 2010. They have been undergoing combat capability tests at the Taiwanese military’s key air base, in Taoyuan County. The platoon will be under the umbrella of Taiwan’s Aviation and Special Forces Command.
The twin-engine, medium-lift utility helicopters have been procured at a cost of about US$2.8 billion, and replace the country’s aging UH-1H Huey helicopters. They are versatile enough to be useful in both electronic warfare and special operations.
The helicopters are known for their adaptability to different combat environments and are capable of conducting airstrikes, carrying out logistics and rescue missions, and conducting airborne command operations, Taiwan’s Defence Ministry noted in a statement.
The remaining 28 helicopters will be delivered in various shipments between now and 2020, the army said, with some expected to go to Taiwan’s air force.
The manufacturer, Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., a Lockheed Martin subsidiary, has been revving up production of the aircraft for the Taiwanese army at its Connecticut plant. It has given an estimated completion date of October 2018.
Black Hawk helicopters are intended to complete a vital “security shield” against possible aggression by the Chinese military, analysts say, as in the event of a full-blown war they can assist the redeployment of fighters and attack helicopters and even engage in combat if the island’s major air bases are bombarded prior to an invasion by the People’s Liberation Army.
Currently, the backbone of the island’s air defense is the fleet of F-15, Dassault Mirage 2000 and indigenous Ching-kuo fighters, which are complemented by Apache twin-turboshaft attack helicopters and older Bell Cobra helicopters.