Prince Harry promoted to captain in British army

image captionPrince Harry was eligible for promotion to the rank of captain after five years' service

Prince Harry has been promoted to the rank of captain by the British army, it has been announced.

St James's Palace said the prince had achieved the rank after completing five years' service.

The prince, who is training as an Apache helicopter pilot, joined the Army in 2005 and spent 10 weeks serving in Afghanistan in 2007-08.

During his deployment he served as a forward air controller directing ground attack jets in Helmand province.

His tour of duty made him the first royal in more than 25 years to serve in a war zone.

'Expensive asset'

The prince has often spoken of his desire to return to front-line service.

During a recent four day trek to the North Pole with wounded servicemen, he said it would be pointless for him to have undertaken such costly training if he could not be on active duty.

image captionPrince Charles visited his son Harry while he was learning to fly an Apache helicopter

"You become a very expensive asset, the training's very expensive and they wouldn't have me doing what I'm doing," he said.

"I'd just be taking up a spare place for somebody else if they didn't have me going out on the job."

As a captain he will be on a pay band from £37,916 to just over £45,000.

The prince was awarded the coveted Apache Badge from his squadron commander on Thursday.

A spokesman for St James's Palace also confirmed that the prince had passed an eight-month "conversion to type" course to learn how to fly the Apache helicopter while at the Army Aviation Centre (AAC) at Middle Wallop, Hampshire.

The helicopter is used by UK forces in Afghanistan to search for the Taliban, intelligence-gathering and to provide support to other helicopters.

His father the Prince of Wales, a Royal Navy helicopter pilot, paid a private visit to him while he was there.

Prince Charles was invited by the AAC in his role as Colonel-in-Chief of the Army Air Corps to fly an Apache and to meet students on his son's course.

Before undertaking his role as best man at his brother Prince William's wedding to Kate Middleton on 29 April, Prince Harry will begin the final phase of his training; a "conversion to role" course at Wattisham airfield in Suffolk.

He will then spend time in the US under instruction.

The prince's official spokesman also outlined other aspects of his training.

"Before progressing on to the night flying phase, Prince Harry was tested using a cockpit blackout system known as the 'Bag'.

"This exercise prepares students for flying on the night-vision system, which displays thermal imagery into the helmet-mounted display over the pilot's right eye.

"The night flying phase lasted approximately three months, culminating in a final assessment, during which students commanded a pair of Apache helicopters at night in order to test their handling, captaincy, understanding of the aircraft system and response to simulated emergencies."

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