Prince Harry has returned to the UK after completing a major exercise in the United States flying Apache helicopters with the Army, St James’s Palace said last night.
The prince spent two months taking part in Exercise Crimson Eagle in California and Arizona.
He flew the helicopters in mountainous and desert conditions, during both the day and night, as well as firing the aircraft’s weapons.
He and his fellow students have not quite completed their Apache Conversion To Role course, as they still have some training to do at RAF base Wattisham Station in Suffolk.
The 27-year-old has already been taught to fly the helicopter, and the exercise, split between Naval Air Facility El Centro in California and Gila Bend Auxiliary Air Force Base in Arizona, was designed to prove his proficiency in handling the aircraft.
The exercise included aviation environment and judgment training, and then a live firing phase.
Lt Col Peter Bullen, chief of staff of the Attack Helicopter Force at Wattisham Station RAF base, said: “Exercise Crimson Eagle is a challenging exercise during which students have had an opportunity to practise skills in a demanding environment with conditions similar to those in Afghanistan.”
The Apache attack helicopter is designed to hunt and destroy tanks and is equipped with rockets, missiles and a machine gun. If the prince completes his training it will prompt questions about if, and when, he will be deployed back to Afghanistan.
He was secretly flown to southern Afghanistan in December 2007 to work as a forward air controller, serving for 10 weeks. The prince has spoken publicly a number of times about his wish to serve his country on operations.