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Prince Harry qualifies as Apache helicopter pilot after finishing top in class

London , Thu, 09 Feb 2012 ANI

London, Feb 9 (ANI): Prince Harry, who spent 10 weeks as an infantry soldier in Helmand in 2008, will return to Afghanistan after qualifying as a front line Apache attack helicopter pilot on Wednesday.


The 27 year-old royal will join a unit, which has the highest "kill rate" of any serving in Afghanistan.


According to Royal sources, he was looking forward to "doing his duty" after completing a gruelling 18-month training programme which culminated in him finishing top of his class and being declared "limited combat ready".


Once the Prince has completed pre-deployment training with his squadron he will be classed as fully "combat ready".


With his brother, the Duke of Cambridge, currently serving as an RAF Search and Rescue pilot, the Prince's forthcoming deployment means two members of the Royal family will be on operational service for the first time since the modern Armed Forces were formed.


In a marked departure from the media blackout agreed during his previous tour of Helmand, the Ministry of Defence made it clear in an announcement last night that Prince Harry will be expected to fly in combat.


No date has been announced for his four-month tour of duty, which will be subject to review by senior generals and even the Prime Minister until the last minute.


However, the MoD decided no blackout was necessary this time because the Prince will be far less vulnerable as a pilot than he was when he went on foot patrols four years ago.


In his role as co-pilot gunner in a two-man crew, the Royal will operate the aircraft's weapon systems, which include Hellfire missiles and a 30mm chain gun. Flying out of Camp Bastion, he will also be expected to provide air cover on missions by special forces.


"Killing insurgents is what the machine Prince Harry flies is there for; you cannot put it any other way," the Telegraph quoted a defence source as saying.


The Prince, who has proved a natural pilot since switching to the Army Air Corps, was also told that he had been declared the best co-pilot gunner of his class of more than 20.


Captain Wales, as he is known in the Army, was presented with a trophy - a polished 30mm round from an Apache cannon mounted on a stand - during a celebratory dinner with his fellow pilots at their base at Wattisham airfield in Suffolk.


The Prince will join 662 Sqn, 3 Regiment Army Air Corps, having passed the final part of his training, a survival course during which he was hooded and interrogated in a simulated Taliban kidnapping, picking up a cut on his nose which was visible when he was photographed last week.


It marked the end of his "conversion to role" course, having previously completed a "conversion to type course" in which he was taught how to fly the Apache. (ANI)


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