ARMY chiefs will start recruiting hundreds of extra elite Gurkhas this year to bolster infantry expertise, we can reveal.

Top brass will increase the number of Gurkhas to the UK military to from 250 to around 400 a year as they form a new battalion.

The new battalion of Nepalese soldiers , whose motto is “Better to die than live a coward”, provide specialist to the Army including engineering and logistic support.

They will join other members of the Specialist Infantry Group where they will be deployed around the world after passing a rigorous selection process.

Existing Gurkha units will be boosted as part of the UK-led NATO rapid reaction force and setting up new Gurkha Engineer and Signals Squadrons.

The move comes as women will be recruited to the Gurkhas who could start infantry training in the UK by next year.

Ministers also announced this week that Gurkha veterans and their families will receive a new pension deal.

Some of the 22,000 could receive increases of 34 per cent extra in their retirement package backdated toi the beginning of 2016.

The boost in numbers comes after a report last year by the National Audit Office found that the armed forces are short of 8,200 soldiers, sailors and air personnel.

Commonwealth nationals living abroad will soon be joining the armed forces without having lived in the UK for five years.

Minister for the Armed Forces Mark Lancaster, who served in the Queen’s Gurkha Engineers, last night said the specialist soldier shave provided two centuries of “service and sacrifice”.

He said: “They bring unique expertise and perspective to the United Kingdom and British Army which makes them an ideal choice to form a third battalion of the Royal Gurkha Rifles as a Specialised Infantry Battalion.”

Colonel of the Royal Gurkha Rifles Major General Gez Strickland said: “The specialised infantry role is exciting and challenging and we look forward to learning new skills and making new partnerships around the world as we begin the new task.

“We are enormously proud of the Army’s confidence in our ability to take this on.”