By Stephen Trimble Taiwan will receive 30 Boeing AH-64 Block III Apache helicopters under a new contract signed with the US government, a US Army official announced on 10 June. The order marks the latest show of US military support to Taiwan despite deep objections by China, and confirms the first international customer for the AH-64 Block III. Col Shane Openshaw, the army's AH-64 project manager, said Taiwan's first new-build helicopter will enter production in October, with the rest of the aircraft sprinkled through Boeing's production programme. The AH-64 Block III deal is known in Taiwan as a project code-named Sky Eagle. The Block III programme upgrades the engine and transmission system on the AH-64, restoring speed and lift performance lost after two decades of service added weight to the original airframes. The Block III variant also introduces new software and connectivity, allowing the pilots to simultaneously control unmanned air vehicles and their payloads. The US Army is programmed to receive a fleet of 690 AH-64 Block IIIs over the next 15 years, with all but 56 aircraft remanufactured from previous models. The remainder will be new-build aircraft to replace helicopters lost in combat operations over the last decade.