|The moment Harry directed his first bomb attack on Terry Taliban for 'Kill TV'
28th February 2008
It was the moment Prince Harry directed his first bomb attack.
Two US F15 jets discharged separate 500lb charges onto a Taliban bunker system after being given clearance by the prince – known to pilots only as call sign Widow Six Seven.
A third exploded moments later as Taliban fighters emerged from cover in full view of the aircraft above.
Directing operations: Prince Harry talks to aircraft control from JTAC Hill close to Base Dwyer
The strike, on New Year's Eve, was the culmination of a three-day aerial surveillance operation spearheaded by the 23-year-old Household Cavalry officer working as a battlefield air controller from a fortified position nearby.
Taliban fighters had been identified over the previous two days, moving between the bunkers, with as many as eight seen apparently digging trenches at one point.
They were spotted in successive surveillance flights by a lawnmower-sized Desert Hawk drone and a manned reconnaissance aircraft, which is able to watch the ground undetected by the Taliban because of its height.
As a JTAC (Joint Terminal Attack Controller) – also known as a Forward Air Controller (FAC) - Harry's job was to establish that the figures seen moving about below had been positively identify as enemy forces.
The task included carrying out a “pattern of life” study, establishing both the movements and routines of the Taliban and being sure that there were no civilians on the ground.
From the operations room at Forward Operating Base Delhi, the southernmost allied outpost in Helmand, Harry was able to watch live pictures, beamed onto a laptop computer terminal, dubbed “Taliban TV” or “Kill TV”.
He was also able to speak to the pilots of any manned aircraft assigned to his section of airspace and direct them to the areas he wanted them to concentrate on.
Fob Delhi sits close to “Line Arbroath”, the front line which looks onto a 500 metre area of no-man's-land.
At the southern end is “Line Taunton” a trench system defended by a minefield, where the Taliban sit, armed with rocket propelled grenades, anti-aircraft guns, 107mm rockets and AK47 assault rifles.
The fortification system being targeted, which came to be codenamed “Purple”, sat 150 metres behind that Taliban front line.
On the night before the air strike, the Prince stayed at his post until well after midnight surveying movements in the area, initially with a Desert Hawk drone which beamed back night vision pictures dubbed “Green Eye”.
Later two British Harrier jets flew in from the north to survey the area, picking up heat sources including suspected Taliban and even what appeared to be a dog running around.
Just before 10am the following morning Gurkha troops at a small British observation post in frontline Garmsir were caught up in a contact with Taliban fighters firing across no-man's-land.
Three Royal Artillery guns fired round after round onto pinpointed positions from another British base just over 11km away to force the Taliban back.
In his Operations Room, Harry, who had already been assigned a reconnaissance plane for further surveillance, was allocated two US F15 fighter jets.
As the firing on the ground subsided the prince sent the two jets off around 10km away to drown out the aircraft noise – something that would otherwise be sure to force the Taliban to take cover.
Within less than an hour 15 Taliban fighters had emerged and could be seen in and around the area of the bunkers.
The prince then called the jets back and verified co-ordinates for his first air strike.
There were to be two separate targets at opposite ends of the bunker system.
Once ready, the pilots signalled “In Hot” to Harry. He then gave them the final go-ahead with the words “Cleared Hot”.
Grainy images from an army “Rover” terminal screen showed what Harry saw as the pilots lined up the targets and dropped the first two 500lb bombs.
The Prince had the lives of British troops in his hands in his work as a battlefield air controller in Afghanistan.
As a Forward Air Controller (FAC) - often referred to as the American term JTAC (Joint Terminal Attack Controller) – he was responsible for providing cover for troops on the front line in Helmand Province.
During the heat of battle it was he who would call in and give final clearance for air strikes on Taliban targets.
But the job also involved long hours scrutinising minute details of surveillance footage beamed from aircraft flying over enemy positions to a laptop terminal, dubbed “Taliban TV” or “Kill TV”.
This could involve pictures from drones such as the British Desert Hawk – little larger than a standard model aeroplane – to full sized manned reconnaissance aircraft which are able to watch the ground undetected by the Taliban because of their height.