Prince William, second in line to the British throne, could spend up to three months in the Falkland Islands as part of his 18-month RAF Search and Rescue (SAR) course which theoretically ends later this year.
The news was headlines in the major UK media and would mean he will the first royal member of the armed forces to return to the Falklands on active service since 1982 when Prince Andrew, Prince William's uncle, took part in the military operation to retake the Islands while serving as a pilot in the Royal Navy on board HMS Invincible. Details of the Prince's future posting to the Falklands were revealed on the front page of the RAF News, an internal Ministry of Defence publication. The article appeared with the headline "Wills faces tough Falklands test in Search and Rescue debut" and states that the Prince looks set to be sent to the South Atlantic once he has passed his SAR flying course. A deployment in the Falklands would mean that Prince William would have to spend a prolonged period of time apart from his long-term girlfriend, Kate Middleton, 27, amid continued speculation of an imminent royal engagement. Prince William, who holds the rank of Flying Officer in the RAF, decided on a career in SAR after it was made clear to him by defence chiefs that he would never serve in a war zone. Once he has completed his course he will serve with his unit for at least 30-months. The Falkland Islands posting is one of the least popular within the armed forces because of its distance from the UK and the weather in the South Atlantic, which for all but a few months of the year, is poor. But the Falkland Islands remain one of the most testing areas for SAR pilots because of the harsh winters and rough seas. The role of the special force is to primarily rescue pilots whose aircraft and been forced to ditch in the sea but RAF crews will also come to aid of stricken ships, yachts, and civilians trapped on mountains or in floods. Prince William is currently a pupil on course No 115 at the Defence Helicopter Flying School based at RAF Shawbury, in Shropshire. During the intensive training course he will undertake a two-month refresher course with 705 Naval Air Squadron flying the single-engine Squirrel helicopter, before joining 60(R) Squadron flying the twin-engine Griffin, the RAF's advanced flying training helicopter. While at 60(R) Squadron, the Prince will also spend time with the Search and Rescue Training Unit at RAF Valley, in Anglesey, North Wales. Prince William's final stage of training will be with 203(R) Squadron – the Sea King Operational Conversion Unit – to complete his search and rescue training. During the final phase of the course the Prince will learn how to operate the Sea King in all types of weather conditions, by day and night and learn how to winch aircrew and civilians from the ground, sea or ship into the helicopter.