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Prince William flies first Falklands sortie for RAF stint

Britain's Prince William takes to the skies Saturday in the Falkland Islands on his first sortie as an RAF search-and-rescue helicopter pilot.
/ Source: staff and news service reports

Britain's Prince William took to the skies over the Falkland Islands on Saturday on his first sortie as a Royal Air Force search-and-rescue helicopter pilot, British media reported.

His deployment that began earlier this week come amid tension resurfacing between London and Argentina over sovereignty of the British-ruled territory.

The prince was deployed to the South Atlantic with the RAF just two months ahead of the 30th anniversary of the 1982 war between Britain and Argentina over the British-ruled islands.

The pilot prince was branded a "pirate prince" by protesters, the Daily Mail reported.

William, called Flt. Lt. Wales in the RAF, will provide search and rescue cover for civilian and military population as a Sea King co-pilot, the Daily Mail said. He has held the post since qualifying at RAF Valley in Anglesey.

His first shift involved briefings on the unique and challenging flying environment of the Falklands and familiarization with the location and the job, officials told the Daily Mail. He also spent part of the day going over charts showing the islands' topography.

"A posting to operations in the Falklands is a vital part of the career progression for a Search and Rescue pilot," Squadron Leader Miles Bartlett told the Daily Mail. "The experience they get here is second to none."

The weather on the islands is often changeable and a significant number of the population live in very remote and rugged areas.William, who is married to Catherine Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, will not carry out any royal duties during his six weeks on the islands.

Britain has controlled the islands, about 300 miles off the southern Argentine coast, since 1833.

In 1982, Britain sent a naval force and thousands of troops to reclaim the islands after Argentine forces sent by the country's then-military junta occupied them. About 650 Argentine and 255 British troops died in the 10-week conflict.

Britain refuses to negotiate with Argentina over its claim of sovereignty to the islands. Prime Minister David Cameron said last month Britain was committed to protecting the islands.