Lockheed's F-35 production could slow by 24 jets as COVID-19 hits suppliers

WASHINGTON, May 19 (Reuters) - Lockheed Martin said on Tuesday it will slow production of its stealthy F-35 fighter jets at its Texas facility, possibly delaying delivery of between 18 and 24 jets due to a parts shortage as the coronavirus hampers production across the jet’s vast supply chain.

Greg Ulmer, who runs Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program, told Reuters in an interview that “we’re going to slow the production rate down for about two to three months.”

The virus’ impact on defense production was foreshadowed by Ellen Lord, the Pentagon’s chief weapon’s buyer, who in April said she anticipated that major weapons programs would experience a three-month delay.

Companies that make parts for the structural components of the jet aircraft are having to slow production due to the virus, Ulmer said.

Reporting by Mike Stone Editing by Chris Reese