JPO Dedicates Assembly Line To Fix U.S. Navy F-35C Delays

Credit: U.S. Air Force

Lockheed Martin has established a dedicated final assembly line for the F-35C to overcome production delays that emerged in 2019, the Joint Program Office (JPO) tells Aerospace DAILY.

The F-35C was scheduled to achieve full-rate production in 2019, but “production issues arose,” the JPO said in response to emailed questions, without elaborating.


A consequence of the production delays was the composition of the overall delivery mix in 2019. Lockheed pulled forward deliveries of four Lot 12 aircraft into 2019 to reach a total of 134 overall F-35s, or three more than the scheduled target of 131 last year.

All four aircraft pulled forward into the Lot 11 delivery stream consisted of the conventional takeoff and landing F-35A. The group also included two aircraft delivered from an overseas final assembly and checkout line, the JPO said.

The program originally expected Lockheed to deliver 10 Lot 11 aircraft and 131 Lot 12 jets in 2020. As a result of the F-35C delays, the program now expects to deliver 13 Lot 11 aircraft this year and at least 128 Lot 12 aircraft.

To get the F-35C back on track, the JPO has responded by setting up a dedicated final assembly line, increasing training for F-35C mechanics and improving supplier performance.

“These initiatives will support an incremental schedule recovery,” the JPO said.

Separately, Lockheed delivered the first F-35C on Jan. 21 to an operational U.S. Marine Corps squadron: VMFA-314 at Miramar, California. The Marine Corps currently plan to order 67 F-35Cs, but the program of record could increase as service leaders seek greater participation with the U.S. Navy’s large-deck carrier fleet.

Steve Trimble

Steve covers military aviation, missiles and space for the Aviation Week Network, based in Washington DC.