WASHINGTON — The U.S. Defense Acquisition Board is to consider whether the low-rate production for the initial 24 King Stallion helicopters should be approved, according to Bloomberg Technology.

The contract initially will cover two of the aircraft, which are capable of lifting 27,000 pounds; however, quantities would grow annually.

The approval to continue would be the first major acquisition decision under Defense Secretary James Mattis while also beginning to unlock the revenue that Lockheed Martin expects to gain from sales, spares and repairs throughout the lifetime of the program. Spending is increased, per the latest budget plan, to $1.9 billion in fiscal 2020 from the $892 million of this year.

The King Stallion is the same size as the Super Stallion, but able to haul triple the amount of cargo. Bruce Tanner, Lockheed's chief financial officer, explained in an interview that the CH-53K's potential revenue was the primary reason for Lockheed's acquisition of the Sikorsky unit from United Technologies Corp. in 2015.

The helicopter is currently projected to have production costs of $122 million per chopper, a cost that exceeds the price tag of Lockheed's F-35. The cost of the King Stallion is estimated to drop below $89 million after full production begins. And although that is still expensive, Lt. Gen. Gary Thomas, deputy of programs and resources with Headquarters Marine Corps, said he is working with Lockheed to "keep the cost down and to drive value for the taxpayer."

The Pentagon's test office revealed that the helicopter is on course to meet key parameters for range, payload and reliability. The helicopter has demonstrated its capacity to support the "most stressing" missions but maintains a serious problem with the high temperatures of engine exhaust from two of the three engines.

Rachael Kalinyak is an editorial intern with Network Solutions.

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