Inside the Prince's killing machine: Prince Harry returns to Afghanistan to fly Apache helicopters in fight against Taliban

  • Harry will be on Apache duty for four months working as a co-pilot gunner
  • He arrived early this morning and was given tour by his commanding officer
  • Prince will celebrate his 28th birthday there next Saturday
  • Posting puts his Vegas blowout with friends last month into context

By Martin Robinson and Ian Drury


Prince Harry has returned to Afghanistan to fly Army attack helicopters in the battle against the Taliban.

The 27-year-old arrived on the front line under cover of darkness yesterday to join the Apache unit which has the highest ‘kill rate’ in the war.

Captain Harry Wales – as he is known in the Army – will be a co-pilot gunner during his four-month deployment, meaning he will fire the aircraft’s weapons.

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Prince Harry's Apache helicopter

But the prince’s presence in Helmand will mean that the Taliban will likely step up their efforts to kill or injure him to land a huge propaganda coup.

Harry’s arrival at Camp Bastion, where he will serve with 662 Squadron, 3 Regiment Army Air Corps comes four weeks after a storm over his antics in Las Vegas.


Pictures emerged of the prince naked during an alcohol-fuelled game of strip billiards in his £5,100-a-night suite at the luxurious Encore Wynn Hotel.

Although he was said to be letting off steam ahead of his deployment to Afghanistan, the third-in-line to the throne received a stern dressing-down by senior officers for his role in the frolics.

Back in action: Prince Harry is shown the Apache flight-line by a member of his squadron at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan, where he will be operating from during his tour of duty as a co-pilot gunner

Back in action: Prince Harry is shown the Apache flight-line by a member of his squadron at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan, where he will be operating from during his tour of duty as a co-pilot gunner

Harry – who has been dubbed ‘the party prince’ – was keen to return to Afghanistan after his first tour of duty was cut short  in 2008.

Happy to be back: The prince Harry gives a thumbs up as he started his latest Afghanistan tour this morning

Happy to be back: The prince gives a thumbs up as he started his latest Afghanistan tour this morning

The prince had been secretly deployed with the Household Cavalry as a forward air controller directing bombing strikes against insurgents for ten weeks.

His time there was cut short when news of his presence was leaked on foreign websites and he was brought back to Britain.

However, Harry was so determined to do another tour of duty that he retrained as an Apache pilot in the hope it would increase his chances of being redeployed.

The Queen and Prince of Wales were fully briefed about his return to the war zone. Prince Charles was ‘immensely proud’ of his son, said St James’s Palace.

A spokesman added: ‘He [Harry] has approached the deployment with a range of emotions like any other soldier and feels both pride and anticipation as he deploys for a job he’s trained for, for so long.

‘Prince Harry, like any soldier, considers it a great honour to represent his country in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces wherever it chooses to deploy him.’

The Ministry of Defence confirmed the deployment after a threat assessment concluded that his presence in Helmand would not  put him or his comrades at greater risk.


A soldier died yesterday after being wounded in Afghanistan.

The serviceman, from 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, was injured during ‘enemy action’ in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand on August 14.

He died from his injuries at Queen  Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.

His death brings the number of UK  military killed in the Afghanistan operation since 2001 to 426.

Harry was greeted at Camp Bastion by Captain Jock Gordon, the commander of the Joint Aviation Group, which provides helicopter support to Coalition and Afghan forces in south-west Afghanistan.

He said: ‘Captain Wales with his previous experience as a forward air controller on operations will be a useful asset.

‘Working with his colleagues in the squadron, he will be in a difficult and demanding job.’

In March, Harry revealed how much he wanted to return to the front line.

He said: ‘I’ve served my country. I enjoyed it because I was with my friends.

'And, you know, everyone has a part to play.

Powerful: Harry wanders past the weapons that he will be using tofight the Taliban

Powerful: Harry wanders past the weapons that he will be using to fight the Taliban

Prince Harry
Prince Harry

Tough job: A serious looking Harry ducks near his Apache and then right he discusses what he will be doing with a colleague

Good to go: Harry said his goodbyes to his family this week and flew out last night

Good to go: Harry said his goodbyes to his family this week and flew out earlier this week


Prince Harry

After more than 18 months learning to fly one of the world's deadliest helicopters, Prince Harry will soon put his training into practice.

The Apache is used in a number of roles in Afghanistan but all revolve around its devastating firepower.

Harry will act as the aircraft's co-pilot gunner operating its arsenal of weapons from the front seat, while behind him will be the pilot.

Missions will involve targeting the Taliban in support of ground troops who have come under attack from insurgents.

With its payload of laser-guided Hellfire missiles, it can target buildings being used for cover by the Taliban, reducing them to rubble. And for enemy out in the open, the aircraft's 30mm chain gun can be controlled from the gunner's helmet-mounted display.

Other missions include providing escort cover for aircraft, usually RAF Chinooks, that may be carrying troops or equipment around Afghanistan. Again its compliment of weapons, which include wing-mounted aerial rockets, will ward off Taliban attacks from the ground and if there are any salvos from enemy fighters, they will be returned with interest.

The Apache can operate in most weather and at night, so can be used to gather intelligence in many conditions including the harsh Afghanistan winters. With its tank-like build, the helicopter can also fly into hostile areas, targeting known insurgent strongholds, and perform other dangerous missions.

‘All these people talking these  stories of “Oh, he’s been trained as [an] Apache pilot, he’s never going to see active service, he’s never going to get to the front line”.

‘These people live in a ridiculous world to even think that.

‘You can’t train people and not put them into the role they need to play. I want to serve my country.’

Dressed in his combat uniform, Harry spent his first morning in Afghanistan checking over the helicopter he has described as a ‘fantastic bit of kit’.

Looking relaxed but tired, the prince gave a thumbs-up after disembarking from the long flight on a troop transporter from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

He will spend about ten days acclimatising to the war zone before embarking on operations.

He will undergo an awareness and information course which all personnel must attend, including intelligence briefings and updates on enemy activity.

He will also take part in several flights to familiarise himself with the terrain.

As the co-pilot gunner, Harry will command missions, fire the weapons, navigate and sometimes take over the controls.

The two-crew gunship – nicknamed the ‘flying tank’ – is used  by UK forces in Afghanistan to smash the Taliban, gather intelligence and provide support for soldiers on the ground.

Harry learned to fly Apaches helicopter during an 18-month training course in February.

Military sources expect the Taliban to put increased pressure on rogue Afghan soldiers and  policemen to try to kill the Prince.

Even Task Force 444 – the trusted Afghan Special Forces unit – will not be allowed near him.

Concerns that explosives will be smuggled into Camp Bastion to be made into a homemade bomb have led to an increase in security, with around 100 troops being assigned to guard the main British base.

Prince Harry will be shadowed by two highly-trained security officers to keep him safe from threats.

Walk by: The Prince will be in Afghanistan for four months and will even celebrate his birthday

Walk by: The Prince will be in Afghanistan for four months and will even celebrate his birthday

Chat: The prince has been desperate to get back to Afghanistan because he wants to be treated like any other soldier

Chat: The prince has been desperate to get back to Afghanistan because he wants to be treated like any other soldier

Dangerous: As another helicopter comes in to land Harry discusses what he'll be doing until the end of the year

Dangerous: As another helicopter comes in to land Harry discusses what he'll be doing until the end of the year


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 Video: Sir Richard Dannatt comments on Prince Harry's deployment

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The Duke of York

Prince Harry is the latest in a long line of royals who have served on the front line in the armed forces.

His uncle the Duke of York, pictured right, saw action in a conflict zone when he was a Sea King helicopter pilot during the Falklands War and sailed on HMS Invincible.

Andrew was 22 when he took part in helicopter missions, acting as a decoy target, trying to divert deadly Exocet missiles away from British ships.

He was in the Navy for 22 years, rising to the rank of commander before leaving the service in 2001.

Harry’s grandfather, the Duke of Edinburgh, joined the Royal Navy as a 17-year-old cadet in spring 1939 as the storm clouds of war gathered on the horizon.

Two years later he was a midshipman serving on HMS Valiant which took part in a dramatic Second World War naval battle which earned him a military honour.

During the Battle of Cape Matapan, the Italian fleet was caught unawares by British warships that sank three cruisers and two destroyers.

Philip was mentioned in despatches for operating HMS Valiant’s searchlight during the decisive naval encounter and picking out enemy targets.

The Duke rose through the ranks and in 1952 became a commander, but his naval career came to an end following the death of his father-in-law, King George VI, that year.

George VI was the first of the modern royals, and the only sovereign since William IV to see action in battle.

When still Prince Albert, he fought as a sub-lieutenant aboard HMS Collingwood in the Battle of Jutland in 1916.

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge,

His older brother, who was destined to be king, the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII), was not allowed to fight in the Army when the First World War broke out.

Lord Kitchener, the secretary of state for war, decided the prince would not serve at the front but he eventually joined the British Expeditionary Force in France, helping to raise the morale of troops.

Harry’s brother the Duke of Cambridge, a helicopter pilot with the RAF Search and Rescue Force, has also spoken of his desire to serve his country on the frontline despite being a future king, but has yet to achieve his ambition.

Other royals have joined the forces, but stayed safely away from conflict zones.

The Queen spent a period in uniform, joining the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) in February 1945 at the age of 18.

By the end of the Second World War she had reached the rank of junior commander, having completed her course at No 1 Mechanical Training Centre of the ATS and passed out as a fully-qualified driver.

The Prince of Wales trained to be a pilot with the RAF, getting his wings in 1971, and went on to serve with the Royal Navy for five years, above right.

For the final 10 months of his active career in the Navy, Charles was given command of his own ship, minehunter HMS Bronington.

The Earl of Wessex dropped out of the Royal Marines in 1987 and did not achieve a military rank.


Prince Harry is shown the Apache flight-line by a member of his squadron

In Prince Harry's words, the Apache attack helicopter is simply 'awesome'.

Designed to hunt and destroy tanks, the fearsome Apache is capable of flying at 205mph and boasts a mix of weapons including a wing-mounted aerial rocket, Hellfire laser-guided missiles and a 30mm chain gun.

Seen as the attack aircraft of choice in Afghanistan, it is heralded as one of the most important weapons systems to enter service with the Army since the tank in 1916, and is said to have significantly increased the force's operational capability.

It can fly in all weathers from Arctic cold to desert heat, operate day or night, and detect, classify and prioritise up to 256 potential targets in seconds.

Harry said he faced one of the biggest challenges of his life in 2010 as he prepared to embark on his training to fly the robust twin-engine, aerial weapons platform.

'It is a huge honour to have the chance to train on the Apache, which is an awesome helicopter," he revealed at the time.

He added: 'To be honest, I think it will be one of the biggest challenges in my life so far.'

The Prince completed his training in February, including a stint in the US where he learned to fire the aircraft's lethal missiles for the first time, facing dusty conditions similar to Afghanistan.

This final stage of training was an eight-week intensive exercise at El Centro in the Californian desert, where much of the 1986 movie Top Gun was filmed.

The aircraft is operated with two crew members - a pilot and co-pilot gunner who usually operates the weapon systems.

Harry, known as Captain Wales in the Army, won a prize for being the best co-pilot gunner during his 18 months of rigorous training.

The Apache is powered by two Rolls-Royce engines with built-in particle separators for desert operations.

The first British Apaches, built by AgustaWestland based in Yeovil, Somerset, came into service with the Army Air Corps (AAC) in 2001 and went on to be widely used in Afghanistan.

UK forces in Helmand Province have employed the aircraft to hunt and kill Taliban fighters, gather intelligence and provide cover for larger Chinook helicopters transporting troops and vital supplies.

It uses night vision systems and CCD TV target trackers and is also fitted with high-tech radar and thermal imaging equipment that allows the crew of two to pinpoint targets with great accuracy even if they are hidden behind foliage.

The Apache was also deployed in Libya in support of Nato operations.

The helicopter was involved in a daring rescue mission in Afghanistan in January 2007, when four British servicemen strapped themselves to the outside of two Apaches to recover the body of a dead comrade in Helmand.

The four marines went to the aid of Lance Corporal Mathew Ford hoping he was still alive after he went missing following an attack on a Taliban fort. They were hailed for their bravery.


The comments below have not been moderated.

l'm sure he will have fun flying his helecopter unlilke the troops on the ground risking their lives in dreadful conditions

Click to rate     Rating   17

Good to see him back in uniform.

Click to rate     Rating   3

Last time The Clown Prince went to Afghanistan, it was hush-hush. Now it's splashed across the news that Harry's off to play toy-soldier. This is nothing but a huge PR campaign by the Palace. Harry's been foisted on the Army to keep him inline. I pity the REAL soldiers that have to put up this nonsense.

Click to rate     Rating   3

And do you honestly think he is going anywhere near the front lines? Not a chance - all propoganda!!

Click to rate     Rating   22

Harry isn't on the frontline at all, he's in a safer area, where he's safe, as if the royals are gonna waste one of their own in battle, that's what the commoners are their for

Click to rate     Rating   28

Apart from the Queen I have had enough of the Windsors. After her death put an end to it.

Click to rate     Rating   15

@Alan,Pezenas-when Harry finishes up with his time in Afghanistan he will be promoted to Major and he will be on equal status with the man NOT named on his birth certificate, who lives conveniently and permanently out of the UK.

Click to rate     Rating   2

We need oil. More oil! - Jack , Cambridge, United Kingdom, 08/9/2012 17:35 Wont find much of that in Ghanners mate

Click to rate     Rating   25

How come it was such a state secret the last time Harry went to Afghanistan, but this time it's a media event?

Click to rate     Rating   71

We need oil. More oil!

Click to rate     Rating   16

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