S-70C choppers to make last public appearance Aug. 11
ROC Central News Agency
Taipei, Aug. 7 (CNA) The aging S-70C helicopters of Taiwan's Air Force will likely make their last appearance in public at an open base event at Chiayi Air Base on Aug. 11 before being replaced by the more modern UH-60M Black Hawks in 2019.
Listed under the Air Force rescue group, Taiwan now has 16 S-70Cs, 13 of which were bought in 1986 and three that were purchased in 1998.
To replace its aging fleet, Taiwan's military purchased 60 Black Hawk helicopters from the United States at a cost of NT$84.67 billion (US$2.4 billion) in 2010.
The Black Hawks were originally to be used exclusively by the Armed Forces, but the government later decided to allocate 15 of them to the National Airborne Service Corps (NASC) to boost its rescue capabilities.
Taiwan now has 59 of the new choppers after one disappeared near Orchid Island in February while carrying out a rescue mission in difficult weather conditions.
Tung Chen-po (董振波), deputy head of the Air Force's Combat Readiness & Training Division, told CNA on Tuesday that the Air Force is currently training its pilots to fly the Black Hawks and said they should be ready to replace the S-70C choppers by the end of 2019.
That makes the upcoming Aug. 11 open base event the last time the S-70C choppers will appear in public, according to Tung.
Air Force Maj. Chang Hung-hua (張宏華) told CNA that the highly decorated aircraft have been involved in hundreds of rescue missions.
The choppers were deployed after a magnitude 7.3 earthquake in 1999 and the aftermath of Typhoon Morakot in 2009, two of the deadliest natural disasters in Taiwan in recent history.
There will be a strong sense of loss when the aircraft are decommissioned, Chang said, but he was also happy the Air Force will be boosted by UH-60M Black Hawks, which are cutting-edge choppers that are bound to perform well in rescue missions.
At the upcoming open base event, S-70C helicopters will conduct a series of aerial maneuvers to bid farewell to Taiwan's citizens, according to the Air Force.
(By Matt Yu and Joseph Yeh)
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