HAVANA, Sept. 9 (Xinhua) -- A group of retired Cuban fighter pilots on Sunday marked the 57th anniversary of their training and studies in China.
The elderly pilots gathered at the Wushu School in Havana's Chinatown for a ceremony that was also attended by China's ambassador to Cuba Chen Xi.
China helped Cuba despite the fact that it was "undergoing a difficult period" at the time, noted retired colonel Henry Perez, who serves as coordinator of the group, which originally numbered 223 students.
"China's help was decisive for the future of the fledgling Cuban revolution," said Perez.
Defense attache at the Chinese Embassy to Cuba, First Col. Huangfu Qunxing, spotlighted the close ties between the two countries and the role the fighter pilots played in strengthening the bilateral relationship.
After training in the cities of Linfen and Shenyang for two years, from 1961 to 1963, the 117 Cuban pilots and 106 ground technicians went on to form the core of Cuba's Air Force.
Today, only 87 of the air force veterans survive.