F-35 PEO Lt. Gen. Michael Schmidt talked to workers at Lockheed Martin’s Air Force Plant 4 in Fort Worth, Texas, in November 2022.

F-35 PEO Lt. Gen. Michael Schmidt talked to workers at Lockheed Martin’s Air Force Plant 4 in Fort Worth, Texas, in November 2022. U.S. Navy / Chief Mass Communication Specialist Matthew Olay

Lawsuit could further delay F-35 deliveries

Lockheed is suing a key supplier of titanium structural parts.

Deliveries of the F-35 stealth fighter, already delayed, could slip further as prime contractor Lockheed Martin sues a key supplier.

Lockheed is suing Howmet Aerospace, which stopped supplying titanium materials for the jet’s airframe after demanding a “massive price increase” for them, according to a lawsuit filed by Lockheed on Nov. 30. The suit was first reported by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Howmet’s move “threatens to cause substantial delays in Lockheed Martin’s construction of F-35s, and therefore substantial delays in Lockheed Martin timely delivering such F-35s to the U.S. military for critical, urgent national security needs, as required by Lockheed Martin’s prime contract with the government,” the suit said.

Lockheed officials would not say how many aircraft might be delayed, nor by how much. 

“It is our practice not to comment on pending litigation,” the company said in a statement. 

Howmet responded to the lawsuit with a Dec. 1 press release that asserted that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had “dramatically increased” the price of titanium materials. 

Howmet also alleged that Lockheed violated its contract by allowing other contractors to sell their revert metal—think "scrap" or "recyclable"—to third parties rather than provide it to Howmet. 

“Since 2022, Howmet has been transparent with Lockheed Martin about these challenges and has acted in good faith to attempt to reach a reasonable resolution for the benefit and long-term health of the F-35 program. While such discussions were still ongoing, Lockheed Martin unfortunately chose to file a meritless lawsuit seeking to compel Howmet to continue to supply product at prices that no longer reflect commercial reality and on terms that Howmet believes it is not contractually obligated to provide,” the release said. “Howmet looks forward to defending itself vigorously in court against Lockheed Martin’s claims. In the meantime, Howmet remains open to discussing a reasonable resolution.”

The parts on hold include titanium sheets and plates that are used in the airframes of all three F-35 variants, according to Howmet’s website

Lockheed is already trying to work through delays with a new technology package for its F-35s. The company said in September that hardware and software problems mean that new F-35s with the tech package won’t be delivered until at least April, and possibly June. Since the Pentagon is refusing to accept jets from Lockheed until this tech is finished, the delay could force the company to sit on roughly 100 jets.