Force Protection Inc., one of the region's largest manufacturers, is being sold to defense giant General Dynamics.

The sale of the Ladson-based armored vehicle maker works out to $5.52 a share, or a total of about $360 million.

The deal is expected to close by the end of the year.

It was unclear what will become of the company's main manufacturing plant on U.S. Highway 78.

Michael Moody, chairman and chief executive officer of Force Protection, said: "After careful consideration of the strategic direction of Force Protection, our board decided that a sale to General Dynamics would maximize value for our stockholders. With their armored vehicle business, General Dynamics will be able to pursue opportunities that we could not have pursued as a stand-alone company. As part of the General Dynamics family, our innovative products and offerings will continue to provide militaries worldwide critical assets that save troops' lives."

Mark C. Roualet, president of General Dynamics Land Systems, said the acquisition "complements and strategically expands General Dynamics' armored vehicle business, adding new products to the expansive portfolio of combat vehicles that we currently manufacture and support."

Force Protection has about 1,100 employees.

A conference call is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. today.

1997: Force Protection's predecessor is formed.

1999: Force Protection's Technical Solutions Group sets up shop on the former Navy base.

2003: Force Protection moved to the former General Electric plant, a sprawling factory space on U.S. Highway 78 in Ladson.

2004-2006: The company grows from 12 employees to 500 and captures multimillion-dollar military contracts for mine-resistant armored vehicles, or MRAPs, with names like Buffalo and Cougar.

Early 2006: Force Protection misses most of its vehicle order deadlines. Other companies had begun to compete for MRAP deals.

2007: Force Protection sells shares to public. A few months later, Force Protection announced its biggest contract, a $490 million deal with joint venture partner General Dynamics.

2008: Shareholders sue Force Protection, alleging former top executives, who had made tens of millions of dollars in stock trades before resigning, failed to warn them about delivery delays or a flawed accounting system. (Lawsuit was settled in 2011 for $24 million.) Michael Moody is brought in as CEO.

2010: Force Protection exceeds $1 billion in sales, headlined by an estimated $280 million contract with the U.K. Minister of Defence for 200 Ocelot vehicles.

2011: General Dynamics says it will buy Force Protection for $360 million.

Check back with postandcourier.com later for more details.