June 29, 2003 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Lockheed-Martin will be late in delivering the new F-16I's to the Israel Air Force, as a result of a strike at its Fort Worth, Texas plant. The first plane was due to be delivered in Israel in October 2003. Delivery will now be delayed till next year.
The production workers at Lockheed-Martin went on strike last April, in coordination with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. They say that over several years, they had foregone raises due to the global economic crisis and the company's shaky position. In April however, they demanded compensation due to Lockheed Martin's improved profits.
Lockheed-Martin tried to keep production lines working at full capacity by using non-union labor, but it transpired that the strike harmed the delivery timetable.
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics is currently building F-16s for Israel
, along with the midsection of the F-22, and Japan's F-2
fighter aircraft. It will shortly begin building the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, to be used by the US and Israel.
The F-16 purchase is the largest ever made in Israel's history. Lockheed-Martin beat out Boeing to build 50 aircraft for $2.5 billion (including engines and subsystems), but Israel later exercised its option to expand the contract by 52 additional aircraft, increasing the value to $4.5 billion.
All F-16s are assembled at Forth Worth but a significant coproduction of airframe and avionics components takes place in Israel.