Prince Harry In Afghanistan: Apache Attack Helicopter 'Awesome' (PICTURES)

Apache Attack Helicopter 'Awesome'

In Prince Harry's words, the Apache attack helicopter is simply "awesome".

Designed to hunt and destroy tanks, the fearsome Apache is capable of flying at 205mph and boasts a mix of weapons including a wing-mounted aerial rocket, Hellfire laser-guided missiles and a 30mm chain gun.

Seen as the attack aircraft of choice in Afghanistan, it is heralded as one of the most important weapons systems to enter service with the Army since the tank in 1916, and is said to have significantly increased the force's operational capability.

The fearsome Apache is capable of flying at 205mph

It can fly in all weathers from Arctic cold to desert heat, operate day or night, and detect, classify and prioritise up to 256 potential targets in seconds.

Harry said he faced one of the biggest challenges of his life in 2010 as he prepared to embark on his training to fly the robust twin-engine, aerial weapons platform.

"It is a huge honour to have the chance to train on the Apache, which is an awesome helicopter," he revealed at the time.

He added: "To be honest, I think it will be one of the biggest challenges in my life so far."

The Prince completed his training in February, including a stint in the US where he learned to fire the aircraft's lethal missiles for the first time, facing dusty conditions similar to Afghanistan.

This final stage of training was an eight-week intensive exercise at El Centro in the Californian desert, where much of the 1986 movie Top Gun was filmed.

The aircraft is operated with two crew members - a pilot and co-pilot gunner who usually operates the weapon systems.

Harry, known as Captain Wales in the Army, won a prize for being the best co-pilot gunner during his 18 months of rigorous training.

The Apache is powered by two Rolls-Royce engines with built-in particle separators for desert operations.

The first British Apaches, built by AgustaWestland based in Yeovil, Somerset, came into service with the Army Air Corps (AAC) in 2001 and went on to be widely used in Afghanistan.

UK forces in Helmand Province have employed the aircraft to hunt and kill Taliban fighters, gather intelligence and provide cover for larger Chinook helicopters transporting troops and vital supplies.

It uses night vision systems and CCD TV target trackers and is also fitted with high-tech radar and thermal imaging equipment that allows the crew of two to pinpoint targets with great accuracy even if they are hidden behind foliage.

The Apache was also deployed in Libya in support of Nato operations.

The helicopter was involved in a daring rescue mission in Afghanistan in January 2007, when four British servicemen strapped themselves to the outside of two Apaches to recover the body of a dead comrade in Helmand.

The four marines went to the aid of Lance Corporal Mathew Ford hoping he was still alive after he went missing following an attack on a Taliban fort. They were hailed for their bravery.

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