Taiwan Black Hawk helicopters resume operations

All 44 of the Black Hawk helicopters used by the military have cleared required safety checks of their fuselages and dynamic, radar and control systems and have resumed normal operations. (CNA)
All 44 of the Black Hawk helicopters used by the military have cleared required safety checks of their fuselages and dynamic, radar and control systems and have resumed normal operations. (CNA)

TAIPEI (CNA) — Taiwan’s 52 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters have resumed operations after being grounded following a Black Hawk helicopter crash in northern Taiwan on Jan. 2, the military said Wednesday.

Military spokesman Shih Shun-wen (史順文) said all 44 of the Black Hawk helicopters used by the military have cleared required safety checks of their fuselages and dynamic, radar and control systems and have resumed normal operations.

He did not say exactly when the choppers actually returned to the air, and he also did not explain why the military felt comfortable putting the helicopters back into service without knowing why the Jan. 2 crash occurred.

A final analysis of the cause of the crash is not expected until March.

Meanwhile, the eight Black Hawk choppers listed under the National Airborne Service Corps (NASC) of the Ministry of the Interior resumed operations on Jan. 9.

The Jan. 2 crash in the mountains of Wulai District in New Taipei occurred as the chopper was heading to a military base in Dong’ao, Yilan County for a pre-Lunar New Year inspection with 13 people on board.

Among the eight killed in the crash was Chief of the General Staff Shen Yi-ming (沈一鳴).

Taiwan purchased 60 Black Hawk helicopters from the U.S. in 2010 at a cost of NT$84.67 billion (US$2.82 billion), with 30 designated for the Army, 15 for the NASC (including the one that crashed off Orchid Island in February 2018) and 15 for the Air Force Rescue Group (including the one that crashed Jan. 2).

Currently the NASC has taken delivery of nine, while another six will be delivered in August 2020.

Shih made the comments during a pre-Lunar New Year media tour held at Chiayi Air Base, which is one of the bases the military’s Black Hawk choppers serve.

Also during Wednesday’s media tour, the Air Force staged an F-16 fighter jet emergency takeoff and landing drill at the air base to demonstrate the military’s combat readiness.

The drill featured a recently upgraded F-16 V fighter, which required only six minutes of preparation to take off in response to an emergency should any suspicious movements by the Chinese military be detected, according to the military.

The Air Force is upgrading its existing fleet of 142 F-16 A/B fighters to the same specifications as the F-16V, also known as F-16 C/D Block 70, a process expected to be completed by 2023.

Taiwan is also in the process of procuring new 66 F-16Vs from the United States.