Taiwan To Receive Euro SAR Helos This Year
By WENDELL MINNICK
TAIPEI - Taiwan's Air Force will take delivery of three search-and-rescue (SAR) helicopters procured from Eurocopter by the end of the year, if training stays on schedule. Taiwan pilots are undergoing flight training in France.
According to local Air Force sources, Taiwan will put the new helicopters into service in the second half of 2012. Eurocopter beat Sikorsky's bid of the S-92 for the SAR medium-lift helicopter requirement in December 2009. The deal includes an option for a total of 20 helicopters.
This will be the first European purchase by Taiwan since the Air Force procured Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft and La Fayette frigates in the early 1990s. China has effectively blocked most arms sales to Taiwan from Europe, but the EC225 Mk-2 Super Puma is categorized as a commercial helicopter and therefore deemed a non-offensive platform for restricted use as a search-and-rescue platform.
The Air Force and Navy operate 17 Sikorsky S-70C helicopters for anti-submarine warfare missions, SAR and VIP missions. These aircraft were procured in the early 1990s and have not reached the end of their service capability.
The U.S. released a $3.1 billion deal for 60 Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawk utility helicopters in 2010 to replace aging Bell UH-1H utility helicopters. The Army also has a mix of CH-47SD Chinook cargo helicopters and Bell OH-58D reconnaissance helicopters.