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ISLAMABAD (APP): The United States on Friday handed over first  batch of eight gunship Cobra helicopters to Pakistan Army Aviation at a ceremony held at Qasim Aviation Base in Rawalpindi.

Secretary Defence Lt. Gen (R) Tariq Wasim Ghazi was the chief guest  who was formally handed over the keys of the refurbished fleet of the gunships by the US Ambassador Ryan C. Croker.
 
These gunships are the first shipment out of total 40 lethal choppers  to be supplied to Pakistan on gratis basis.
 
Speaking on the occasion, the US Ambassador said that Pakistan would  soon be delivered F-16 aircraft as committed by the US. He said the US is fulfilling its commitment with Pakistan to meet its security needs under Security Assistance Programme.
 

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In the naval sector, he said the US is carrying out the PC-3 Orion  aircraft programme.
 
He said the lot of Cobra is being handed over to Pakistan as part of the 5 years assistance programme as indicated by the US President George W Bush earlier in 2003.

He said the US is not only assisting Pakistan in the defence sector but also in the socoi-economic and other development sectors.

He said Pakistan is an important strategic partner of the US and hoped  that this long-term partnership would continue in future as well. “We are partners in war on terror. We support each other as we are strategic partners,” he said.
      
He appreciated the role of Pakistan's security forces and said their role in peace keeping as part of the United Nations has attracted accolades not only at national but also at the world level. “The international community is highly appreciative to their role,” he said.

He said Pakistan has emerged as regional power due to its moderate and progressive approach.
      
Secretary Defence thanked the US for providing the assistance in defence sector. He said a modernization plan of the country's security forces is being carried out.

He said the delivery of Cobra Helicopters is a manifestation of our mutual long-term relationship.

He expressed gratitude to the US government  for extension of their substantial support to Pakistan. The mutual cooperation will continue with great strength to bring about peace and stability, he added.

He felicitated Army Aviation for their role in various challenges, may it be war on terror or during the hard times of earthquake.
 
In his address of welcome General Officer Commanding Aviation Corps  Major General Javed Aslam Tahir highlighted the role of Cobra gunships and hoped the induction of the batch would go a long way in fortifying the country's defence.

Senior officers of Aviation Corps were also present.