Prince Harry has returned to Afghanistan to fly attack Apache helicopters, which he trained to use at Wattisham Airfield in Suffolk.

The 27-year-old army captain, who spent 10 weeks on the front line in 2007/08, will be in the hot seat during his four-month deployment. The Prince qualified as an Apache helicopter pilot in February, after 18 months of training at the local airfield.

He arrived in Afghanistan in the early hours today, and his first morning at Camp Bastion has been spent checking over the state-of-the-art Army aircraft he has likened to a "robot".

He wore his combat uniform and was joined on the Apache flightline by another unnamed member of the 100-strong unit he is posted to, 662 Squadron, 3 Regiment Army Air Corps.

After about 10 days of acclimatisation and training to hone his skills, Captain Harry Wales - as he is known in the Army - will be set to go out on operations in his role as co-pilot gunner.

Harry has made no secret of his desire to return to active service. A St James's Palace spokesman said: "He's approached the deployment with a range of emotions like any other soldier and feels both pride and anticipation as he deploys for a job he's trained for, for so long.

"Prince Harry, like any soldier, considers it a great honour to represent his country in Her Majesty's armed forces wherever it chooses to deploy him."

Harry was a second lieutenant with his regiment, the Household Cavalry, for his first deployment to Afghanistan and worked as a forward air controller co-ordinating air strikes on Taliban positions.

During his current posting he could carry out similar tasks to those he co-ordinated in 2007/08.

That tour of duty was abruptly ended when foreign media broke a news blackout on reporting details of his service.

This time the Ministry of Defence has chosen to confirm this deployment after a threat assessment concluded that acknowledging his presence in Afghanistan would not put the royal or his colleagues at further risk.

Harry's return to frontline duty comes after 18 months of rigorous training, both in the UK and the US, after which he won a prize as the best Apache co-pilot gunner when he qualified in February.

He will fly various types of mission while stationed in Afghanistan, from escorting RAF Chinook helicopters carrying troops or equipment to targeting Taliban fighters who have attacked ground troops.

The Apache attack helicopter was designed to hunt and destroy tanks, but as the Taliban do not use armoured vehicles, it has a different role in Afghanistan.

As the aircraft's gunner, he will operate its armoury of wing-mounted aerial rockets, Hellfire laser-guided missiles and a 30mm chain gun positioned directly under his seat.

The Prince is starting a four-month tour in Afghanistan Credit: PA

Harry's four-month tour coincides with Operation Herrick 17, which is the British military codename for current operations in Helmand Province.

He will be based in Camp Bastion, a huge base in the middle of the desert shared with US, Estonian, Danish and Afghan troops in the south west of the country.

Last year, Harry suggested it would be pointless to undertake costly helicopter training if he never went into combat: "You become a very expensive asset, the training's very expensive and they wouldn't have me doing what I'm doing.

"I count myself very, very lucky to have the chance to fly helicopters, and even luckier to have the chance to fly the Apache."