Lockheed Martin expects to deliver 97 F-35 fighter jets in 2023, as it faces developmental delays with the next version of the aircraft.
During a third-quarter earnings call, Jim Taiclet, chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Lockheed Martin, provided an update on the F-35 program, announcing that the manufacturer delivered 30 F-35 aircraft in the third quarter of 2023, bringing the year-to-date total to 80 jets.
“Consistent with our announcement in September, we continue to expect to deliver a total of 97 aircraft this year, all in the Technology Refresh 2, or TR2, configuration,” Taiclet said. Lockheed Martin previously forecasted the delivery of between 100 and 120 jets in 2023.
“We are producing F-35s at a rate of 156 per year and expect to continue at that pace while simultaneously working to finalize TR3 software development testing,” the executive stated, adding that Lockheed expects to deliver the first TR3-configured aircraft between April and June of 2024.
The TR3 configuration is meant to support modernized Block 4 capabilities for the F-35 by providing the aircraft with additional computing power. Block 4 should include several major systems upgrades such as an improved radar system, upgraded electronic warfare capabilities, and a set of new long-range precision weapons.
However, the manufacturer revealed that it had been facing delays in the flight certification process for TR3 due to “unexpected challenges” at a subcontractor, L3Harris, which is responsible for producing the F-35’s new integrated core processor.
Consequently, the United States Air Force stopped taking delivery of new F-35s in July 2023 until the TR3 type has received full airworthiness clearance. In early August 2023, Belgium also refused the delivery of two F-35A expected by the year-end over the software issues.
Denmark, which deployed its first four F-35 aircraft on its soil during the quarter, said that the next fighter jets, initially expected to be delivered in the first half of 2024, would not be received before the second half of the year.