By Mike Stone
(Reuters) - Lockheed Martin Corp is expected to receive Pentagon approval on Thursday to begin production for 200 new heavy cargo helicopters for the U.S. Marines, a Defense Department official said on Tuesday.
The long-expected award for the CH-53K King Stallion will cost $87 million on average each and $105 million including spare parts and certain service contracts, said Colonel Hank Vanderborght, who heads the program for the Pentagon. The $27 billion program also includes more than $6 billion in research and development costs.
The new helicopter, in development by Lockheed's Sikorsky helicopter business, can lift 36,000 pounds and would replace the CH-53E Super Stallion, which has operated as the backbone of field logistics for the U.S. Marines since the mid-1980s.
The Pentagon's Defense Acquisition Board will meet on Thursday and it is expected to approve the beginning of production of the new helicopter, Vanderborght told Reuters. A Lockheed Martin representative declined to comment.
The expected approval by the Pentagon's Defense Acquisition Board would be a major milestone for the largest U.S. defense contractor. Final terms of the production deal still are being finalized, a Defense Department official said.
Lockheed CEO Marillyn Hewson told reporters at the company's annual media day last week that the 2015 purchase of helicopter maker Sikorsky from United Technologies Corp for $9 billion helped reshape the company.
(Reporting by Mike Stone; Editing by Soyoung Kim and Bill Trott)