Huge public interest in Apache helicopters draws ire of military
ROC Central News Agency
Taipei, Aug. 25 (CNA) More than 200,000 people have expressed the wish to have an up-close look at Taiwan's most advanced helicopter, the AH-64E Apache, after the Ministry of National Defense announced putting the helicopters on public display, prompting the military to give a press conference defining regulations for public exhibitions.
The Apache helicopters became a heated topic in early April when Lt. Col. Lao Nai-cheng (勞乃成), deputy head of a helicopter squadron in Taoyuan under the Army Special Forces 601 Brigade, was found to have taken friends, including local celebrity Janet Lee (李蒨蓉), on a tour of a restricted area at the brigade's headquarters, where the Apache helicopters are housed.
Not only the military top brass, but also Premier Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) had to apologize for the incident which reflected serious security breaches and violations of regulations.
Meanwhile, 15 persons involved, including five officers and Janet Lee, who posted photographs showing her sitting in the cockpit of an Apache on her personal Facebook page, are facing legal action for the possible violation of the National Security Information Protection Act and Vital Area Regulations.
Last Friday, immediately after the Taoyuan District Prosecutors' Office announced its decision not to press charges against the 15 military officers and civilians on the grounds of insufficient evidence, the military received criticism from all sides and many people have expressed wishes through social media to apply for permission from the Ministry of National Defense to have similar Apache tours as those enjoyed by friends of Lao.
In response to the public demand, MND spokesman Luo Shou-he (羅紹和) said in a press conference Monday that the helicopters will be put on display Oct. 24 at Tsoying Naval Base and Nov. 21 at Hsinchu Air Base for public viewing.
Apart from the open days, visits by agencies, schools and registered groups that apply ahead of time may be allowed to view the aircraft as long as there is no disruption of the training, daily routines, or rights and interests of the soldiers.
As for individual tours, the military will not be able to receive walk-in visitors, he added.
(By H.H. Lu and Lillian Lin)
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