Full COVID-19 Recovery For F-35 Deliveries Pushed To 2022

Credit: USAF

Lockheed Martin F-35 deliveries postponed by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the supply chain will not fully recover by the end of 2021, a company executive told Aerospace DAILY. 

In June, Lockheed announced that 18-24 F-35s in production Lot 12, which are scheduled for delivery in 2020, will be delayed, reducing the overall delivery target to 117 to 123 jets this year. 

Although Lockheed’s final assembly plant in Fort Worth is now at full operations, the impact on the supply chain will drag out the recovery for another year, said Michelle Evans, executive vice president of Lockheed’s Aeronautics business.

“We’re still looking somewhere between 15-20 aircraft that we will be behind by the end of the year,” Evans said in an interview. “It is going to take a while for the supply chain and, thus, Lockheed Martin to recover. So it will take us longer than next year. We’ll probably be staring at two years to recover those jets.” 

Lockheed’s supply chain is in recovery while the company continues negotiating separate deals with the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) for the next three years of airframe production and converting the annual sustainment contracts into a multiyear performance-based logistics (PBL) agreement. 

In October 2019, the JPO and Lockheed agree to an economic order quantity of 478 aircraft for lots 12-14, which are delivered from 2020 to 2022. The agreement includes a firm order from the U.S. government for Lot 12 aircraft, with priced options for Lots 13 and 14 resulting in an overall total of 291 F-35s. The international customers added orders for 187 aircraft under a related, three-year production order. 

A similar approach will be followed for the U.S. and international orders in Lots 15-17, which will include the first jets to receive upgraded Technical Refresh-3 hardware, Evans said. 

Separately, the JPO and Lockheed are continuing to negotiate a long-term PBL to sustain the F-35s, with an overall goal to reduce the cost per flight hour of the F-35A to $25,000 by 2025. Lockheed sees an opportunity to reduce sustainment costs by $18 billion or more over the term of the PBL, Evans said. Lockheed expects to make an initial investment of $1.5 billion in cost-saving projects once the deal is signed.

Steve Trimble

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