Boeing is to supply 50 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters to the British Army, as part of a $2.3bn deal between the US and UK governments.

To be flown by Army Air Corps pilots from the Joint Helicopter Command, the new fleet of Apaches can carry more weapons and use fuel more efficiently than their predecessors.

The first batch of helicopters is expected to be produced by 2020, and entered into service with the British Army in 2022.

The helicopters offer improved computing capacity and updated sensors.

UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: “This deal will give the British Army an outstanding helicopter at good value for money for the UK taxpayer.

“It is part of our plan for more ships, more aircraft, more troops available at readiness, better equipment for special forces, more being spent on cyber.

"That plan, backed by a rising defence budget will enable us to deal with the increased threats to our country.”

The deal also includes an initial support contract for maintenance of the new helicopters, along with spare parts and training simulators for UK pilots.

“This deal will give the British Army an outstanding helicopter at good value for money for the UK taxpayer."

According to the UK Ministry of Defence, the production of Apaches will benefit both US and UK-based companies as part of a global supply chain.

Boeing Defence UK vice-president and managing director David Pitchforth said: “This is not only a major boost to the British Army but it will also mean long-term, sustained jobs in the UK as the vast majority of the training, maintenance, repair and overhaul will be done here over the service life of the aircraft.

“We are working closely with our extensive UK supply chain, including Leonardo Finmeccanica Helicopters (Leonardo), to support initial operating capability of the aircraft in 2022.”

Image: A predecessor of the new Apache AH-64E flying over London. Photo: courtesy of UK Ministry of Defence