Prince William made a secret visit with British troops to Afghanistan this weekend.
The 25-year-old, second in line to the British throne, spent three hours on the ground after helping pilot a military jet to get there.
William flew a C-17 Globemaster transport plane for part of the flight to Kandahar in the country's troubled south Sunday, according to a spokesman for Clarence House, the official residence of William's father, Prince Charles.
He then flew back by way of the Al-Udeid airfield in Qatar, returning to Britain on Monday afternoon.
The visit was billed as a morale boost for troops, but some called it a public relations stunt, coming just a week after national tabloids criticized William for making frivolous flights.
Earlier this month the prince used his Air Force helicopter to visit his girlfriend Kate Middleton, landing in the garden of her parent's countryside estate. Days later William borrowed a Chinook helicopter to take his brother, Prince Harry, to a cousin's bachelor party.
The military said both flights were part of the prince's training, but critics complained that William was using military aircraft as a taxi service
"William said from the outset he didn't want to be molly-coddled or a toy soldier. He always said he wanted to go serve. But yes the timing is suspect," said royal correspondent Robert Johnson.
Afghanistan is now familiar ground for the royal family. Prince Harry, third in line to the throne, served 10 weeks on the front lines, but his tour was cut short after a media blackout broke down.
William's mission is part of a wider plan to familiarize him with military operations to prepare him for the day when, as king, he'll lead the armed forces.
He earned his flight wings earlier this month, after spending four months with Britain's Royal Air Force learning to pilot helicopters and planes. He'll now serve in the Royal Navy starting in June.