The British Army has awarded a £439m contract to helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland, a Finmeccanica company, to increase the availability of the army’s fleet of Apache attack helicopters.

Under the initial five-year contract, the company will improve the levels of the helicopters’ operational output while reducing maintenance costs to generate cost savings.

The support deal also includes incentivised arrangements to increase the availability of aircraft.

The initial contract to meet the Apache attack helicopter future support arrangements (FSA) requirement runs through March 2014.

The British Army operates 67 Apaches, of which, the first eight were built by Boeing and the remaining 59 were assembled by AgustaWestland.

The Apaches, many of which are deployed in Afghanistan, are used for precision attack, air escort, reconnaissance, anti-armour and special forces operations.