TAIPEI (The China Post) — Taiwan’s military officially decommissioned its last six UH-1H utility helicopters and handed over their responsibilities to a fleet of UH-60M Black Hawk choppers bought from the United States in a ceremony held Wednesday at a Taichung military base.
The UH-1Hs have been in service for nearly five decades. They have performed well in both military exercises and during disaster relief and humanitarian rescue missions, Army Commander General Chen Po-yu (陳寶餘) said.
The choppers had logged a total of seven million flying hours in three million sorties, Chen added, stressing that they will be handed over to the Air Force and aviation academies for educational purposes.
Among other highlights, the retired choppers saved more than 300 people who were trapped in the mountains after the Jiji earthquake (集集大地震) in 1999, he continued
Moreover, when Typhoon Morakot (莫拉克颱風) hit Taiwan in the summer of 2008, causing mass floods and killed hundreds of people, Bell UH-1H helicopters also helped evacuate more 2,176 people from the affected area.
According to the military, the UH-1Hs were a joint product licensed by U.S-based Bell Helicopter to the Taiwan government-funded Taichung-based Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. (AIDC) in March 1969.
The first helicopters entered in service the following year and 118 choppers were built locally between 1970 and 1976.
The U.S. government sold a total of 60 UH-60M Black Hawks in 2010, worth a total of US$3.1 billion. Taiwan has so far taken delivery of more than half of them.
A military source told CNA that some of them will also be sent to Taiwan’s only diplomatic ally in Africa, eSwatini.
Taiwan has previously given away nine UH-1Hs to a number of the nation’s allies, including Paraguay, Honduras, Guatemala and Burkina Faso. The latter cut ties with Taiwan in May 2018.
The China Post staff with CNA