Prince Harry will return to Afghanistan after qualifying yesterday as a front line Apache attack helicopter pilot. The 27 year-old, who spent 10 weeks as an infantry soldier in Helmand in 2008, will join a unit which has the highest "kill rate" of any serving in Afghanistan.
Top gun: Prince Harry prepares his Apache to go out on a mission in El Centro, California, during his training. File pic
Royal sources said 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" yesterday.
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.
The Ministry of Defence made it clear in an announcement 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.
But 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.
The Prince, who has proved a natural pilot since switching to the Army Air Corps, was told yesterday that he had been declared the best co-pilot gunner of his class of more than 20.