Prince Harry to train on Apache helicopters in US

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Britain's Prince Harry will train in the United States later this year to further his experience on Apache helicopter gunships, the Ministry of Defence in London said Thursday.

The prince will take part in a two-month training exercise at the Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary base in Arizona and at the US Navy's airfield in El Centro, California.

"The training in the USA consists of environmental training, live firing and tactical exercises," a ministry spokesman said.

The MoD said "Exercise Crimson Eagle" allows British pilots to train with Apaches in dry and dusty terrain similar to southern Afghanistan, where Britain's 9,500 troops in that country are based.

The US military confirmed the planned training stint but declined to comment further about the British royal's assignment.

British helicopter units and other NATO allies regularly train at the southern California base in El Centro, which is located near the Mexico border and has a number of firing ranges.

"Squadrons come from all over the world to train here," Michelle Dee, spokeswoman for the naval base at El Centro, told AFP.

"We're a great desert training location."

Harry, the third in line to the throne who is known as Captain Wales in the armed forces, has made it clear he is determined to serve again in Afghanistan, where his deployment as a soldier in 2007-2008 had to be hastily cut short after a media blackout was breached.

The MoD has refused to comment on speculation that 26-year-old Harry has been given the green light to go to Afghanistan as an Apache pilot.

In the statement, the MoD spokesman said on completion of the course to convert to being an Apache pilot, "Captain Wales will join one of the Apache squadrons and gain wider experience flying Apaches and taking part in exercises in the UK.

"On the issue of deployment on operations this is a matter for the UK Ministry of Defence who do not comment on individuals' movements."

© 2011 AFP

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