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Prince William qualifies as search-and-rescue captain

Prince William prepares to board the royal barge during the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant in London on June 3, 2012. Getty

(CBS News) Prince William has qualified as an operational captain for search-and-rescue missions in the Royal Air Force, Clarence House announced Thursday.

Flight Lieutenant Wales, as he is known in the military, will now command search-and-rescue operations in RAF Sea King helicopters. Previously, he was authorized only to co-pilot the aircraft.

William, who turns 30 on June 21, completed his captaincy tests on May 29. The tests, spread out over a two-day period, included an airborne search for a yacht, a search for people in water, extinguishing a small fire on a large vessel and searching for two missing kayakers.

The Duke of Cambridge spent two years training and studying for the role, the royal household said. He joined Squadron 22, based at RAF Valley in Angesley, north Wales, in September 2010. 

William "demonstrated the required standards needed for the award of Operation Captaincy," Wing Commander Mark Dunlop, the commander of William's squadron, said in a statement. "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."

The new qualification is not a promotion - the prince's RAF rank remains unchanged at flight lieutenant.

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