Lockheed Martin has announced it expects to deliver between 18 and 24 fewer F-35s than the planned 141 jets in 2020 due to suppliers having to adjust to temporary closures and modified working conditions in the wake of the Covid-19 epidemic.
While many suppliers have been able to adjust their work practices without any delays, some have fallen a few weeks behind due to state or country-wide shutdowns.
“If I have the ability to speed up or recover sooner, then I will do so,” Lockheed Martin F-35 program vice president, Greg Ulmer told DefenseNews. “If there are other unknown COVID-19 impacts that I don’t know about that come on the horizon — I don’t know that either. … As we go forward, probably late (northern) summer or early fall, we’ll have a pretty good sense of where we’re going to be.”
To compensate for the shortfall of some components, Lockheed Martin will slow the production rate slightly between May 23 and September 4 in order to prevent bottlenecks or stops on the vast Forth Worth assembly line.
Australia has accepted 24 F-35As and is due to take delivery of a total of 15 F-35As in 2020 and a further 15 in 2021. While the production delays may result in the deferral of a couple of the RAAF’s deliveries, it is unlikely to have an adverse effect on its plans to declare an initial operational capability (IOC) later this year.