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USA to provide Pakistan with Shadow unmanned air vehicles

Pakistan could acquire a fleet of 12 AAI RQ-7 Shadow unmanned air vehicles to boost its airborne surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, under plans outlined by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Announced during a visit to Islamabad, the development comes against a backdrop of mounting concern in neighbouring India over Washington's provision of military aid to help Pakistan step up its war efforts against terrorist groups.

"We share a lot of information that we acquire on the Afghan side of the border and from our satellites, but we also are trying to help the Pakistanis build their own capabilities," says Gates.

Further details of the proposed deal to acquire systems from AAI have not been released, but it would include related equipment and training services. However, information released by the US military suggests that it would involve the company's Shadow 200 design.

© Spc Gregory Argentieri/US Army

Offering an endurance of around 6h, the UAV is 3.4m (11.2ft) long and has a 4.2m wingspan. The type is already in widespread use by the US Army.

It is not clear whether a US-backed deal would place conditions against Pakistan using the unarmed air vehicles to monitor its eastern border with India, but the Indian air force says it is "by no means concerned" about a possible deal.

Pakistan's air force is already acquiring Falco tactical UAV systems from Selex Galileo, with local production of the type to be performed by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex.

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