Jobs boost after Wattisham Airfield, where Prince Harry learned to fly, gains new Apache contract

The Apache
Picture: TANYA SIMPSON PHOTOGRAPHY

The Apache Picture: TANYA SIMPSON PHOTOGRAPHY - Credit: Archant

The Ministry of Defence has announced a jobs boost for Suffolk with a six-year, £48million Apache helicopter training contract.

The move means new jobs at Wattisham Airfield – where Prince Harry trained to become an Apache pilot – will be created although an exact figure has yet to be finalised.

Defence secretary Michael Fallon, speaking at the annual Royal United Services Institute Land Warfare Conference, said: “This £48 million contract will support UK jobs and provide world-class Apache training for our personnel. The Apache is a vital part of the British Army’s fighting force that is helping to keep this county safe.

“This investment is only possible thanks to a rising defence budget and a drive for efficiency and innovation which will help our Armed Forces stay at the cutting edge.”

Around 70 new jobs will be created at Wattisham and two other sites to provide training for more than 700 Army personnel including 50 pilots and 400 ground staff.

Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill welcomed the news adding that the new contract will boost local jobs as well as provide high-quality training.

“Wattisham has long been a home for the Apache helicopter and it is great to see this recognised, once again,” she said.

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“This new announcement will support local jobs as well as deliver high-value, skilled training for personnel at Wattisham. I warmly welcome this announcement and the sustained commitment to our local airfield.

Prince Harry was attached to 3 Regiment Army Air Corps during his time at Wattisham, near Needham Market. Over the course of his 18-month Apache training course he was awarded the prize for best co-pilot gunner. He completed his training in February 2012 in Wattisham after starting the course in Hampshire, in 2010.

When it was confirmed Prince Harry – or Captain Wales as he is known in the Army – would be learning to fly the attack helicopters at Wattisham he described it as “a seriously daunting prospect” but said he could not wait to get started.

At the time he said: “It is a huge honour to have the chance to train on the Apache – an awesome helicopter. It will be one of the biggest challenges in my life.”