The US Marine Corps will start local area flights on the F-35B next week at Eglin AFB, Florida, but all is not well at manufacturer Lockheed Martin.
Workers at the company's Fort Worth, Texas, factory went on strike at midnight on 22 April after they failed to reach a contract agreement with Lockheed. "The parties are not meeting at this time," a company spokesman says. "And there is no scheduled meeting."
While it is impossible to tell how long the strike could last, Lockheed says that there will not be any disruption to the F-35 programme in the near-term. The company had planned out contingency measures two months beforehand in case of a strike, which could happen every three years during wage and benefits negotiations.
©US Air Force
Lockheed is using salaried employees with manufacturing skills to keep production going. "We're continuing operations," the spokesman says.
The union also has about 150 workers each at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, and Edwards AFB, California, who are also on strike. Limited flight operations at the two flight test facilities are continuing by drawing upon the skills of salaried workers and military personnel.
Meanwhile, local area flights at Eglin AFB, Florida, are on-going with the F-35A conventional take-off and landing version. But on 1 May, the USMC's F-35B models should be joining the F-35A in the air once Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) gives its consent.
"[We] expect to be flying on or about 1 May," a senior USMC official says.