Prince Harry is the most eligible bachelor in the UK and possibly the world. It now looks certain that he will return to combat duty in Afghanistan next year. Reports state he has been cleared to return to the war zone as an Apache helicopter pilot.
Prince Harry (26) spent 10 weeks in Helmand province in 2008 as a forward air controller, reporting air strikes against insurgents. However, his deployment was cut short after the media blackout on his armed forces service was broken. Prince Harry is said to be keen to return to Afghanistan.
A Clarence House spokesman said the Army would decide details of Prince Harry’s eventual deployment when his training ends in 2012. That’s always assuming, of course, that he is successful in passing his training.
He said, “Harry is an Army pilot and will deploy wherever the Army chooses to send him. His course finishes in 2012 and after that his deployment will be a matter for the Army chain of command.”
A Ministry of Defense (MoD) spokesman declined to comment on the deployment of an individual officer but it is understood that both defense chiefs and the Queen have approved Prince Harry’s return to active service in a war zone.
Back in 2008, Prince Harry directed jets to drop bombs on Taliban positions in Helmand. But his tour of duty came to an abrupt end when overseas websites broke a media ban on reporting details of his service, putting himself and his men in danger.
As a result, Prince Harry was withdrawn from active service and the Chief of Defence Staff at the time, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, said that Prince Harry’s future deployments would depend on ensuring there was no additional risk to fellow military personnel.
Even as far back as 2008 Prince Harry said he wanted to go back to Afghanistan “very, very soon.”
Sky’s royal correspondent Paul Harrison said, “He does want to do this. He’s a firm believer in why have a million pounds worth of training only to stay behind. He sees his brother doing a job as a search and rescue pilot in Anglesey, and his job he believes is serving his country.”
There will almost certainly need to be a media blackout on Prince Harry’s deployment again. The terms of this have not yet been discussed, which suggests we are some way yet off Prince Harry serving on active duty. Of course, he is not due to qualify until next year (2012).
Known on base as Captain Wales, Prince Harry is a qualified Apache pilot. He is now on a seven-month conversion course at RAF Wattisham in Suffolk, learning to fly the Apache in attack mode before being assigned to a squadron.
He is expected to be based at the flying station for four years.
Asked in March what his aim was after he qualified as an Apache pilot, the Prince said: “My goal is to serve my country like everybody else in the British forces.
“I count myself very, very lucky to have the chance to fly helicopters and even luckier to have the chance to fly the Apache. It’s a fantastic piece of kit, it’s like flying a robot.”
Sky’s Niall Paterson: “Clearly there are always risks but we are in a markedly different situation from a few years ago when it was muted Harry might serve in Iraq but it was deemed too dangerous.
“There are not a huge number of Apache helicopters and clearly they would be a bit of a prize to the Taliban.
“But given there are so few of them I think he shares the risk that others in the Army air corps will be sharing.
“Having spoken to Apache pilots recently, I think they will be of the opinion if Harry is able to fly the helicopter and has the necessary skills set then why not.”