F-35 production slowed due to pandemic, supply chain issues

BETHESDA, Md. Lockheed Martin, citing supply chain delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, said it will slow production of F-35 fighter planes and not fulfill deliveries. Production at its Fort Worth, Texas, facility will be reduced beginning next week, and its planned delivery target of 141 planes in 2020 will likely be 18 to 24 planes short.

The company will move to an adjusted production schedule in which its 2,500 Fort Worth employees will be divided into three groups, with each group at work for two weeks, followed by one week off the job, the company said in a statement on Tuesday

After one three-week rotation, Lockheed plans to evaluate and make adjustments to its new schedule. The company first disclosed the possible delay of F-35 deliveries in April, citing component suppliers slowed by government orders to suspend operations because of the pandemic.

Italy, for example, has had a high number of COVID-19 cases, and is the site of an F-35 assembly plant operated by defense firm Leonardo. The facility closed for several days in March for cleaning. Allied countries that helped fund the plane's development can compete for work on it, a process that officials say reduces the cost of each aircraft and supplies foreign buyers with an incentive to support the program.