The US Army has awarded a contract to Boeing to begin low-rate initial production (LRIP) for the AH-64D Apache block III helicopter.

The $247m contract includes the production of eight Apache block III helicopters in the lot 1 configuration.

The Apache block III features open systems architecture and 26 advanced technology improvements, including level 4 unmanned aerial vehicle control for increased situational awareness.

The Apache helicopter also includes an improved 701D engine drive system, composite main rotor blades, a new split-torque face gear transmission, and increased networked communications capabilities.

The army’s current acquisition objective is for 690 AH-64D Apache block III aircraft.

Work will be carried out at the company’s facility in Mesa, US, with the first LRIP delivery scheduled for October 2011.