Lockheed Martin
F-35 assembly at Lockheed Martin's Fort Worth, Tex., plant.

Lockheed Cuts F-35 Output Due to COVID-19

May 19, 2020
The lead contractor for the Joint Strike Fighter aircraft program is implementing new work schedules to accommodate a slower workflow resulting from supply-chain delays.

Lockheed Martin Corp. reported it is slowing the production rate for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on its supply chain. New work schedules will be implemented as of May 23, arranging about 2,500 workers into three groups, according to their specialized skills, rotating so that each group works a two-week shift followed by one week off.

Delivery schedules to the U.S. and allied defense forces will be adjusted too, and a company official projected the 2020 targeted production total of 141 F-35 aircraft may have to be reduced by 18-24 jets.

Lockheed said the adjusted schedule will allow its production line to meet a slower workflow resulting from supplier delays, and establish "a work rhythm" that keeps specialized skills available when needed.

Lockheed further explained that the new arrangement had been coordinated with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), to avoid layoffs and prepare the F-35 program for a fast recovery.

The agreement with the Machinists union allows Lockheed to maintain the reduced work schedule for its first three-week cycle. Then, it will evaluate business needs and continue or discontinue the adjusted schedule as needed, until September 4.

Lockheed Martin and the IAM also agreed to allow employees to volunteer to be furloughed for 30 days, maintaining benefits but forgoing pay during this period.

The F-35 is a series of three different, single-engine aircraft with Stealth capability and designed for ground attack and combat. It's deployed by the U.S Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Navy, and the defense forces of multiple allied nations.

It represents the largest current U.S. defense program, one that includes thousands of domestic and international suppliers, some of which have been affected by the pandemic, resulting in shortages of F-35 parts or assemblies.

During the past two months Lockheed has worked to keep its defense supply chains operating by advancing payments to smaller and midsized suppliers. It recently adding another $300 million to that effort, which totaled about $100 million during March and April.

Recently, Lockheed CFO Ken Possenriede warned that the F-35 program might miss the 2020 delivery target of 141 jets to the U.S. and allied partners, citing parts shortages and other disruptions from the human coronavirus outbreak.

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