Prince William qualifies as search and rescue captain in Royal Air ForceHas been serving with the squadron at RAF Valley in Anglesey since 2010'The Duke is pleased to have passed the milestone,' said a spokesperson
18:37 GMT, 7 June 2012
Prince William has qualified as an operational search and rescue captain just weeks before his 30th birthday, Clarence House has announced.
The Duke of Cambridge, who turns 30 on June 21, started serving with the squadron at RAF Valley in Anglesey in 2010 as he believed it was best chance to 'serve operationally' in the Armed Forces as he was barred from going to Afghanistan unlike his brother Prince Harry.
After completing his captaincy tests on May 29 and undergoing two years of flying experience in Sea King helicopters he will now be able to command operations, helping rescue distressed mountaineers or exhausted swimmers across the UK.
Scroll down for video
Prince William has qualified as a Search And Rescue captain, allowing him to lead rescues across the UK
The mock rescue scenarios saw him take part in an airborne searches for vessels and missing people while extinguishing a simulated fire.
'Flight Lieutenant Wales, as the duke is known in the military, will now command search and rescue operations in RAF Sea King helicopters,' Clarence House said.
The second in line to the throne joined C Flight, 22 Squadron after graduating training in September 2010 and despite the new qualification his rank will remain Flight Lieutenant.
Just last year the young royal said the promotion would be an honour, stating: 'The training has been challenging, but I have enjoyed it immensely. I absolutely love flying, so it will be an honour to serve operationally with the Search and Rescue Force.'
In response to the news of William's qualification Officer Commanding 22 Squadron, Wing Commander Mark Dunlop, said: 'Flt Lt Wales demonstrated the required standards needed for the award of Operation Captaincy.
A Royal Air Force search and rescue helicopter leaves the RAF base in Anglesey
'Due to the nature of search-and-rescue operations, the required standards are always set at a very high level. Operational captaincy carries the overarching responsibility for the safety of the aircraft, its crew and any casualties.'
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said his tests had been carried out in 'the normal timescale'.
Earlier this year the prince spent six weeks flying search-and-rescue missions from the Falkland Islands. His routine posting proved controversial in the run up to the 30th anniversary of the Falkland Islands conflict, with the Argentinian Government accusing the UK of using the prince’s presence to inflame tension between the two countries.
The extra hours in the air, as well as the challenge of flying over harsh terrain and the South Atlantic, will have been useful experience to William in gaining his new qualification.
William's brother, Prince Harry, recently completed helicopter pilot training on Apache gunships, which are used by the Army Air Corps. Part of his course included two months of advanced weapons training in California and Arizona, where the desert conditions replicate those found in Afghanistan.
He is currently flying Apaches on exercises in the UK and is keen to return to Afghanistan after his first tour of duty was cut short in 2008.
A spokesperson for William added: 'The Duke is pleased to have passed the milestone and is looking forward to contributing in a command role to the lifesaving work of the Search and Rescue Force.'
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have a home in North Wales near William’s RAF base.
Both Prince William and Prince Harry have qualified in their respective fields