The corona virus — Covid-19 — has begun to affect the global defense industrial base.
The Pentagon’s acquisition chief told reporters this week that the virus has forced the closure of two F-35-related facilities in Italy and Japan.
Lockheed Martin has stopped production of F-35 components at a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries factory in Japan and ordered employees at another F-35 facility in Italy to work from home, Ellen Lord, undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment, told reporters on the sidelines of the McAleese and Associates conference, Breaking Defense reported.
The shutdowns are the first indication that the Covid-19 outbreak may begin to affect the highly integrated global defense industrial base, though Lord said he didn’t know of any other programs that have been affected, the report said.
“Right now we have not seen any effects, but I have a team working on that very heavily right now,” Lord said.
“I believe they have decided to shut down for a week,” Lord said of the Japanese facility, but “it doesn’t look like it is affecting deliveries” of the aircraft, she added. Word of the shutterings crossed her desk just this morning.
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security Ken Rapuano has been tasked with monitoring the virus’ impact on allies, to include “scenario planning” on potential impacts, the report said.
Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col Mike Andrews added in a statement that in Japan, the temporary Mitsubishi closure only affects Japanese aircraft, while Lockheed “is restricting travel” to the Cameri facility citing a US Embassy travel alert, the report said.
“Pratt and Whitney Resident Engine Team in Cameri have been directed to telework,” he added. “There have been no impacts to the production line.”
The thee-star chief of the F-35 Joint Program Office, Air Force Lt. Gen. Eric Frick, added some more detail on the Japan problem, although he didn’t mention the issues in Italy.
“i was informed yesterday, for what it’s worth, that in accordance with Japanese governmental instructions, they have paused work at the Nagoya Final assembly and checkpoint or FACO, facility, for a week, and then anticipate the resumption [of work],” Lt. Gen. Frick told the McAleese conference this morning. “I don’t see any other disruption.”
“We are working very closely with DCMA [the Defense Contract Management Agency] to monitor the impact of the coronavirus on the F-35 program,” he said, “[and] we will continue to monitor the situation as it evolves.”
The F-35 is perhaps the most globally integrated supply chain in military equipment history, with pieces built around the world sent to Lockheed’s Ft. Worth, Texas facility. However, jets for some foreign partners are assembled at the two locations, one in Cameri, Italy and the other in Nagoya, Japan, Defense News reported.
Italy this morning announced plans to shut down all schools and universities for the next two weeks in order to halt the spread of the disease.