AFTER a busy bank holiday weekend as his brother’s best man, it was back to work at a new ‘office’ for Prince Harry.
Tuesday was the pilot prince’s first day at the Army Air Corps’ Wattisham base near Stowmarket, taking up the challenge of mastering the high-tech Apache attack helicopter’s sophisticated weapons systems, the Army and Clarence House have confirmed.
Prince Harry, 26, gained his Apache pilot’s badge in mid April after going through a ‘conversion to type’ course at the School of Army Aviation at Middle Wallop, Hampshire.
He was also promoted to become Captain Harry Wales. That means he had become one of the select few qualified to fly the Army’s 67, 205mph, two-seater helicopters.
Now Prince Harry is on the Apache conversion to role course on which, the Army says, he will learn ‘to operate the aircraft and its weapons systems in a variety of challenging operational scenarios’.
The course includes a section in the USA where he will live fire the Apache’s mix of rockets, missiles and 30mm chain gun.
The aircraft, which entered British service in 2001, is also equipped with a day TV system, thermal imaging sight and direct view optics and images from these can be projected into the pilot’s right eye.
Its Longbow radar, in the ‘donut’ over the rotor hub, helps it detect, classify and prioritise up to 256 potential targets in a matter of seconds, day or night.
It has been used very sucessfully in Afghanistan where pilots say the enemy often melt away rather than attack our ground troops and face the Apache’s formidable firepower.
Prince Harry’s fans will also be pleased to know it has a wide range of defensive and safety equipment.
Lt Col David Potts, commanding 7 Air Assault Battalion Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, who service and repair Wattisham’s Apaches, said last week: “The Apache is our most modern helicopter. We benefit from the Americans having used it for 10 years and have an improved version, so we’ve learned from their mistakes. Touching wood, we’ve only had one crash.”
British Apaches have more powerful Rolls-Royce engines than the American’s version, among other improvements.