The prince remarked that “in certain areas budgets are being shrunk” following widespread speculation of possible cuts to military personnel and equipment.
During a visit to the Middle Wallop military base in Hampshire, Harry told graduates: “You’re now going to end up flying some of the best aircraft that we have to offer.
“In certain areas, budgets are being shrunk, but essentially you guys are the assets, the aircraft is the asset, and just don’t forget who you’re serving and who you’re supporting.”
Harry’s comments were praised by the former head of the Royal Navy, who said more funds were needed to deliver plans to modernise Britain’s military.
Former first sea lord, Lord West of Spithead said: “Any royal ‘stands into danger’ when he makes comments that directly relate to political issues.
“I am delighted he is saying it because it is true.
“The Modernising Defence Programme instigated by Gavin Williamson will have to come up with more funding for defence.”
Liberal Democrat defence spokesman Lord Campbell added: “It may not quite be a royal command but it’s as close as you can get.
“Servicemen and women at every level in the forces are well aware of the serious under-funding of the defence budget.”
Former senior military commanders have warned MPs that years of defence cuts have left Britain’s armed forces “close to breaking”.
There have been reports that parts of the military face further cuts, including the Royal Marines, regular troop numbers and amphibious assault ships.
Harry – who will marry fiancee Meghan Markle in May – also alluded to the issue of reduced resources for the military when he gave a speech at a one-day conference about the mental health of veterans on Thursday.
Speaking at King’s College London, Harry told delegates: “In an ever-shrinking defence community where every man and woman counts, we must consider that mental health issues are the second highest cause of absence after muscular-skeletal injury.”