The Covid-19 pandemic has taken a toll on defense production with US aerospace giant Lockheed Martin announcing that the company will deliver a total of 121 F-35 stealth fighters for the current year, which is 20 short of the projected target of 141 units.
The pandemic has reportedly affected the Maryland-headquartered company’s operations as well as those of its suppliers, because of which it had to revise its target.
Steve Callaghan, vice-president, F-35 Business Development and Strategic Integration, said, “Our current target is 121 aircraft for the end of the year. We took some proactive measures early on to try to mitigate the impacts, and position the program for the fastest possible recovery.”
The company had adjusted work schedules and sent payments ahead to specific suppliers, knowing that they would be very adversely impacted by Covid.
Even if the American aircraft manufacturer is able to achieve the revised target of 121 by the end of December, the total would be 13 short of the last year’s delivery of 134 fighter jets.
The target is said to be a decent output considering the scale of the challenge posed by the Coronavirus globally.
“We are very much focused on a healthy workforce for both Lockheed Martin and all our industry partners and suppliers, while at the same time knowing how critical it is for us to continue to produce and deliver this capability to our customers,” added Callaghan.
The F-35 stealth fighters are considered one of the most advanced fighters, with the ability to perform a large variety of missions.
So far, more than 600 F-35 jets have been delivered by Lockheed Martin, with the in-service fleet accumulating more than 345,000 flight hours.
According to the company’s website, the F-35 Program is managed by the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Program Office. The US Air Force, the US Marine Corps, and the US Navy are all procuring and operating F-35s.
Apart from the US, there are eight international program partners — the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Australia, Norway, Denmark, and Canada. In addition, militaries of Israel, Japan, South Korea, Poland, Belgium, and Singapore are also customers of F-35.