During its earnings call for the fourth quarter of 2023, Lockheed Martin detailed its 2023 financial results and its plans for deliveries of its F-35 fighter aircraft in 2024. The manufacturer delivered 98 F-35 aircraft in 2023. It had originally planned to deliver 147-153 F-35s during the year, but reduced this target in July 2023 to 100-120 aircraft, and then further reduced it in September 2023 to 97 aircraft. Lockheed Martin had delivered 141 F-35s in 2022.
The reduction in deliveries in 2023 resulted from a delay in certification of the Technology Refresh 3 (TR-3) upgrades that are needed to power the capabilities of the new Block 4 configuration of the F-35. TR-3 upgrades include a new integrated core processor with greater computing power, a panoramic cockpit display, and an enhanced memory unit.
Originally planned to occur in 2023, the initial delivery of a TR-3 equipped F-35 is now targeted for in the April-June 2024 timeframe. During the earnings call, however, Lockheed Martin management indicated that the delivery could slip further, into the July-September 2024 period.
The 98 aircraft delivered in 2023 were built in the older TR-2 configuration. Lockheed Martin revealed during the earnings call that it intends to deliver a total of 75-110 F-35s in 2024. Approximately 90 percent of the aircraft to be delivered in 2024 are to be in the TR-3 configuration. A small number of TR-2 configured F-35s are slated for delivery in the first half of the year.
Despite the cutback in deliveries, Lockheed Martin is producing the F-35 at a rate of approximately 156 aircraft per year, and placing undelivered aircraft into storage pending availability of the TR-3 updates. The company indicated that as many as 100-120 undelivered F-35s could be in storage at the end of 2024.
According to the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO), a total of 52 TR-3 configured F-35s had been contracted for delivery in 2023. The JPO said that 21 of these aircraft had completed production (and not been delivered) as of January 2024.