Wattisham Airfield: Prince Harry returns to Afghanistan

PRINCE Harry has returned to Afghanistan to fly attack helicopters in the fight against the Taliban.

The 27-year-old army captain, who learnt to fly the Apache helicopter at Wattisham Airfield, near Stowmarket, spent 10 weeks on the front line in 2007/08.

Now he is returning to the country during a four-month deployment.

Having arrived in the early hours today (Friday, September 7) under the cover of darkness, Harry spent his first morning at Camp Bastion checking over the Apache helicopter.

He looked relaxed, if slightly tired, and gave a thumbs-up after a long journey on a standard troop flight from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

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The royal climbed up to peer into the cockpit of one of the helicopters he will fly and crouched down to inspect its weapons.

He wore his combat uniform and was joined on the Apache flightline by another unnamed member of the 100-strong unit he is posted to, 662 Squadron, 3 Regiment Army Air Corps.

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After about 10 days of acclimatisation and training to hone his skills, Captain Harry Wales - as he is known in the Army - will be set to go out on operations in his role as co-pilot gunner.

The Queen and Prince of Wales were both fully briefed about his return to operations and Charles is “immensely proud of his son”, St James’s Palace said.

Harry has made no secret of his desire to return to active service, and has spent the past three years changing the direction of his military career from an armoured reconnaissance troop leader to an Army helicopter pilot in order to be posted back to Afghanistan.

A St James’s Palace spokesman said: “He’s 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.”

Harry’s return to frontline duty comes after 18 months of rigorous training, both in the UK and the US, after which he won a prize as the best Apache co-pilot gunner when he qualified in February.

Before deploying, Harry said his goodbyes to his immediate family, staying with his father at his Scottish retreat Birkhall on the Queen’s private Balmoral estate during the Bank Holiday weekend at the end of August.

His brother the Duke of Cambridge wished him well when they met at William’s home at Kensington Palace earlier this week.

Harry was greeted at Bastion by the commander of the Joint Aviation Group, Captain Jock Gordon (Royal Navy).

He said: “I extend an extremely warm welcome to 662 Squadron, including Captain Wales, who with his previous experience as a forward air controller on operations will be a useful asset to the Joint Aviation Group.

“And working together with his colleagues in the squadron, he will be in a difficult and demanding job, and I ask that he be left to get on with his duties and allowed to focus on delivering support to the coalition troops on the ground.”

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