Prince Harry could be heading back to Afghanistan, this time as an Apache helicopter pilot.
The 27-year-old prince completed a demanding 18-month Apache attack pilot training course Wednesday and at a ceremony later that night was given an award for being the best co-pilot gunner, the job he would hold if deployed, the Daily Telegraph reports.
In a statement Wednesday night, the Ministry of Defence made it clear that Captain Wales, as he is known in the military, could see combat. This openness is a reversal of the media blackout that accompanied Prince Harry’s first Afghanistan tour. In 2007, the prince served a brief 10 weeks in the province of Helmand before being called back when several news organizations reported his location. No media blackout would be required this time as the prince will not be involved in ground combat.
(PHOTOS: Prince Harry Deploys to Afghanistan)
The exact date of a possible deployment has not been announced, though the Guardian reported that it could be in the next six to 12 months. For now, Harry will be stationed at an air base in eastern England as part of the 16 Air Assault Brigade, Reuters reports. The prince will participate in pre-deployment training before being classified fully “combat ready.”
Apache pilots have the highest “kill rate” of any unit serving in Afghanistan–about two Taliban fighters per week, according to the Telegraph. A Ministry of Defence source tells the newspaper, “Killing insurgents is what the machine Prince Harry flies is there for; you cannot put it any other way.”
Prince Harry joins an elite group of pilots; fewer than one in 10 who apply for helicopter training qualify to fly the Apache.
His brother, Prince William, is currently on a six-week tour of duty as a Royal Air Force search and rescue helicopter pilot in the Falkland Islands, a deployment that has inflamed tensions with Argentina, which has called it a “provocation.”