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Taichung, central Taiwan, Nov. 9 (CNA) Taiwan's Aviation Industry Development Corp. (AIDC) has successfully produced the fuselage for OH-58D observation helicopter, a spokesman for the island's only aircraft manufacturer said on Tuesday.

A ceremony marking the completion of the fuselage was held at the AIDC's Shalu plant in central Taiwan county of Taichung, with AIDC Vice President Chou Yuan-yuan presiding.

Steve Estill, Bell Helicopter Co.'s chief executive in charge of Asia-Pacific and Oceania affairs, also attended the ceremony.

The fuselage will be shipped to Bell Helicopter for installing other systems and testing before the end of this year, the AIDC spokesman said.

Noting that OH-58D helicopters boast brilliant combat records, the spokesman said the US military once used them to successfully break Iran's blockade during the Persian Gulf war. The US government agreed to sell 26 OH-58D helicopters to the Republic of China several years ago. The choppers have since formed the backbone of the ROC Army's airborne/cavalry brigade.

Last year, the US government agreed to sell another batch of 13 OH-58D helicopters to Taiwan. As Bell has maintained close cooperative ties with AIDC for more than 30 years, it has commissioned AIDC to assemble the fuselages for the 13 helicopters.

Addressing the first OH-58D fuselage rolling-off ceremony, AIDC Vice President Chou said AIDC has emerged as one of the world's major aircraft manufacturers after more than 30 years of development. "Our production capacity and product quality have both reached world-class," Chou said, adding the completion of the OH-58D fuselage indicates that AIDC has the capability to meet the military's demand for advanced helicopters.

Chou also expressed gratitude for Bell's technical and engineering assistance in the OH-58D fuselage assembling process.

Speaking on the same occasion, Estill said the completion of the OH-58D fuselage marks a new milestone in the Bell-AIDC cooperation, adding that the two companies have expanded cooperation in other fields.

AIDC, a state-owned enterprise, is now Bell's sole subcontractor for nearly 50 kinds of bonding panels for its Bell412 general helicopter. The first shipment of those components was delivered in September this year. "Our product quality and manufacturing technology have won the recognition of Bell," Chou said.

Bell, which has a work force of more than 6,000 people around the globe, accounts for 56 percent of the world's turboshaft driving helicopters. And 80 percent of commercial helicopters used in Taiwan, including Bell 430, 412 and 206 models, were purchased from Bell. (By Sofia Wu)

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