Britain’s Prince Harry has qualified as an Apache helicopter commander, the Ministry of Defence announced Friday, putting him in charge of the aircraft he co-piloted in Afghanistan.
Harry, 28, served as a co-pilot gunner in the attack chopper during his 20-week tour in Afghanistan’s restive Helmand Province, which ended in January.
Harry — who will be overtaken as third in line to the throne by his brother Prince William’s first baby, due this month — passed the commander test earlier this week.
The second son of Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, Harry is serving in 3 Regiment Army Air Corps.
He is known as Captain Wales within the military.
“This is a tremendous achievement for Captain Wales who passed with flying colours,” said Lieutenant Colonel Tom de la Rue, his commanding officer.
“I am delighted that his new status as a qualified Apache aircraft commander and co-pilot gunner places him at the very top of his profession.”
The qualification is the culmination of three years of training and experience in the Apache.
Since returning from Afghanistan, the prince has gone through several months of training, flying day and night missions in Britain, to prepare for the six-hour test for his upgraded role.
Harry was assessed across a wide range of tactical and procedural scenarios, in a flight that took him around England, including over Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham.
He was required to plan and deliver patrol orders, navigate throughout, fly in a controlled airspace and conduct a simulated low-level attack on the Spadeadam airbase in northern England.
He also had to manage several diversions and simulated aircraft emergencies.
A few weeks before flying out to Afghanistan in September last year, the royal was pictured frolicking naked during a weekend break in Las Vegas.
Harry said during his tour that he had killed Taliban fighters, who were taken “out of the game” by his unit if they targeted British soldiers.
The prince is unlikely to get another turn flying in Afghanistan again before all foreign combat troops withdraw by the end of 2014.
Harry will continue with his normal duties as an Apache pilot based at Wattisham Airfield, near Ipswich in eastern England.