An empty Hellfire missile launcher detached and fell from an Army AH-64E Apache attack helicopter during a midair test in Pingtung County Wednesday, with officials suspecting the launcher's release button may have been pressed accidentally.
In a statement, the Army Aviation Special Troops Command said that one of the missile launchers, which are fitted under the helicopter's wings and can carry up to four air-to-ground Hellfire missiles each, fell as the helicopter was releasing flares as part of the test.
The Army's aviation unit added that the launcher did not cause any damage on the ground and had already been recovered.
The helicopter had landed safely after the launcher was dropped, and an investigation to determine the cause of the incident is ongoing, according to the Army.
This is the second incident involving an Apache since the aircraft the Army first received the aircraft in 2013.
In April 2014, an Apache carrying two officers crashed into a building in Taoyuan, only six months or so after the Army took delivery of the first of 30 aircraft purchased by Taiwan from Boeing.
No injuries were reported in the crash, with an Army investigation later finding the two pilots -- the only people on board at the time -- at fault for the collision, after they misjudged changing weather conditions.
Following this latest incident, the Army said training would be improved based on what it can learn from its investigations.
Meanwhile, its personnel will be reminded to carry out all required procedures for every mission as if they were in actual combat.
The Army has 29 Apaches remaining in service, each of which can be fitted with up to four Hellfire launchers for a total payload of 16 missiles.
Taiwan became the first international customer for the AH-64E after the United States agreed to the sale of the aircraft along with 66 Hellfire missile launchers in 2008.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel