Under the deafening rumble of rotor blades and jet engines, co-pilot ‘Captain Henry Wells’ scanned the dusty landscape of Helmand province for Taliban, or in his words, ‘baddies to be eliminated’.
Sitting in the cramped seat of the 45-million-pound Apache, the officer known around the world as Prince Harry was responsible for firing the helicopter’s 30mm cannon and Hellfire missiles.
A responsibility that weighs heavily on one’s conscience, in view of the cannonballs fired, can throw any human being off course. The missiles, guided by Harry’s on-board computer, can destroy any armored vehicle or even a small building.
The barrel of Harry’s cannon, located directly under the cockpit, then slid from right to left. Enemies were identified and opened fire, causing the chain-gun’s 23-inch barrel to go into a furious spin.
Prince Harry was responsible for firing the helicopter’s 30mm cannon and Hellfire missiles
Harry told readers the 25 deaths were ‘not a fact that filled me with satisfaction, but I was not ashamed either’
The moment of impact was captured in grainy footage recorded by a video camera on the AH-64’s chassis. On his return to Camp Bastion, the UK headquarters in southern Afghanistan, the number of enemy gunmen killed by Harry mounted.
As Harry, 38, chose to reveal in his memoir, he was apparently responsible for ending the lives of 25 rebels. He is said to have died in six events during his 2012-2013 tour of duty.
Based on how he described the period, the taking of life left him emotionally numb. As he tells readers, his death was ‘not a fact that filled me with satisfaction, but did not make me feel ashamed’.
He credits this unit to the military training he received before taking to the skies of Helmand province in such a deadly killing machine.
He tells readers that his coaches trained me for ‘the other’. As a result, he removed the ‘chess pieces’ of his victims from the board instead of people. Why so? Because in the words of Harry ‘if you see people as people you can’t kill them’.
As Harry, 38, chose to reveal in his memoir Spare, he was apparently responsible for ending the lives of 25 rebels
Such is the nature of the war, most UK troops rarely engage the Taliban, as their roles do not require them to do so. Of those who did, few can say with certainty that they shot someone.
Harry suggests that thanks to modern technology, the aviators can make their kills count. Writing in Spare, he assures readers that ‘the age of Apaches and laptops’ allows him to share his kills ‘with accuracy’.
Last night, the Defense Ministry said it did not comment on such ‘operational details’ due to ‘security reasons’. Harry appears not to feel bound by the same constraints. What his colleagues, especially his brother officers, think of his admission remains to be seen.
While Harry admitted at the end of his stint as an Apache gunner that he did engage in enemy combat, this is the first time he has been so specific about his activities. He has never previously discussed the number of Taliban he calculated. Such disclosure may raise concerns about his personal safety.
He has long been considered a terrorist threat, not only because of his royal status but because of his service in Afghanistan, as a junior officer in a reconnaissance unit in 2007 and as an Apache pilot in 2012–13.
Ironically, he was never to return to a combat zone after his first tour – which was cut short after an Australian magazine broke a media embargo for not reporting his presence in Afghanistan.
According to senior military sources, Harry was furious when top officials ordered that he should return to the UK. He also sought to be able to redeploy to Helmand province.
But military commanders thought the war against the Taliban was too dangerous for Harry, who was then third in line to the throne, to return.
A source said: ‘He could not withdraw with ground forces, the air was the only option. Honestly no one thought he would qualify as an Apache pilot or co-pilot, the syllabus being so tough and he didn’t have the science aptitude most trainee pilots have.
‘So we gave him the option of saying he could go back as Apache air crew, thinking that would never happen. But not only did he pass all the courses, but also topped his class. the rest is history.’
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