Both Boeing and Lockheed Martin have indicated that they will proceed with the assembly of military aircraft despite the COVID 19 situation.
Production on major acquisition systems like the KC-46 tanker and F-35 strike fighter in fact will continue.
Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Mike Andrews said in a statement that Under Secretary of Defense Ellen Lord held her first call with members of the Aerospace Industries Association, National Defense Industrial Association, Professional Services Council, National Association of Manufacturers, and the Chamber of Commerce on March 17 to “ensure the security, reliability, and resilience of our defense industrial base and our collective effort to execute the National Defense Strategy.”
“Boeing has issued updated guidance directing all employees who are able to perform their work from home effectively to telecommute until further notice,” said Larry Chambers, company spokesman. “Some Boeing sites were already partially or fully operating under these guidelines in accordance with local or national government mandates,” he added.
“We’re assessing the safety of all of our sites and their alignment with local, state, and national government guidance as we continuously monitor this evolving situation,” Chambers said. The company will follow government direction to implement guidance as necessary to “ensure the health and wellbeing” of employees and their communities.
The F-35 assembly lines in Italy and Japan have resumed operations as well after being shut down temporarily.
Italy’s F-35 Final Assembly and Check-Out (FACO) facility resumed production of parts and other line activities on Mar. 18 after having closed on Mar. 16-17 for a “deep cleaning,” according to a source familiar with the program. Japan’s F-35 FACO in Nagoya is back up and running again too after it was closed from Mar. 9 to Mar. 13, sources said. Since Japanese FACO, run by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, was already well ahead of its production goals so there should be “no impact” from the temporary stand-down.
According to a source familiar with the program, Lockheed is not anticipating “any significant impact on the supply chain” from its worldwide vendors.
Though some of the workers have self-quarantined because of exposure to Covid-19 or because they are feeling sick, it has not been a significant-enough number to affect production, sources reported.
“Employees with potential exposure are instructed to work remotely and self-quarantine,” Lockheed spokesman Brett Ashworth said. Lockheed is pre-screening visitors at company locations and limiting them to only those “necessary for business.”
When circumstances warrant, “we will deep clean work areas and common spaces in any facility with elevated exposure to Covid-19 and regularly share exposure-prevention protocols to reinforce healthy behaviors,” Ashworth said. “We are mitigating any potential impacts to customers and implementing business continuity plans as required, including secure telework for our customer support teams.”
Aeronautica Militare Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics.
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