breaking newsPrince Harry has been shipped out to Afghanistan to begin a 4-month combat tour for the British military ... but the Royal Family INSISTS the move is not a punishment for his naked exploits in Vegas.
The 27-year-old arrived today at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan ... and according to reports, he will begin work as an Apache co-pilot and gunner within 10 days.
A rep for the military released a statement saying, "Captain Wales is a serving soldier and a qualified Apache pilot having completed the Apache Conversion to Role course earlier this year."
"As such, and after further flying experience, he has deployed along with the rest of the squadron as part of a long-planned and scheduled deployment to provide support to ISAF and Afghan forces operating in Helmand."
A spokesperson for the Royal Fam tells TMZ ... Harry's naked romp in Vegas had NOTHING to do with the decision to ship the Prince to the Middle East -- "It goes without saying that one doesn't deploy as an Apache pilot to Afghanistan at short notice."
The spokesperson adds, "Prince Harry's time in Las Vegas was his last break before the frontline."
Still, we gotta ask ...