Lockheed Martin will likely miss its production target of 141 examples of the F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter in 2020.

The company’s suppliers are not able to deliver parts on time, a disruption caused by the coronavirus. As a result, the number of F-35s produced this year could fall by 18 to 24 units below the 141 aircraft goal, Lockheed said on 19 May.

F-35 in assembly

Source: Lockheed Martin

F-35 in assembly

The manufacturer is planning for a three-month production slowdown at its Fort Worth, Texas facility and has reached an agreement with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) to operate under a temporary alternating work schedule for line employees.

“The new schedule, which will begin 23 May, divides each shift into three groups. On a rotation, each group will work for two weeks and then will have a week off,” says the firm. “During the adjusted three-week work schedule, employees who work 96h or more will be compensated an additional 24h for their off week while receiving full pay and benefits.”

The alternating schedule is meant to help maintain a work rhythm and enable Lockheed to retain skilled workers, the manufacturer says.

“The temporary alternate work schedule agreement will continue for its first three-week cycle. The company will then evaluate business needs and can alter the schedule as needed, with the option to discontinue as warranted or continue until 4 September,” says the company. “Lockheed Martin and the IAM have also agreed to allow employees to volunteer to be furloughed for 30 days, where they maintain their benefits but forgo pay during this period.”

The company declines to say what F-35 parts were in short supply or to identify which suppliers were impacted by coronavirus.

Kenneth Possenriede, executive vice-president and chief financial officer, projected in an earnings call in April that F-35 production would decline this year. However, at the time he said he did not know by how much.

Anticipating the decline, the company had lowered the upper end of its aeronautics unit’s annual revenue projection by about 2%, to $24.6 billion. The F-35 is the biggest revenue-generating business line within the aeronautics unit. The firm says its prior projections remain consistent.

Lockheed says it anticipates returning to pre-coronavirus production levels “in the autumn”.