Lockheed Martin sues contractor for F-35, says dispute will delay aircraft deliveries

Lockheed Martin is suing one of its subcontractors on the F-35 program, alleging that the company is withholding parts over a pricing dispute that Lockheed claims will cause “substantial delays” in deliveries.

Lockheed Martin — which designs and produces the F-35 military fighter jets in Fort Worth — filed the federal lawsuit Thursday in the Fort Worth division of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

The lawsuit is against Pittsburgh-based Howmet Aerospace and its subsidiaries, which supply Lockheed and other F-35 subcontractors with titanium materials for the F-35 program. Lockheed’s lawsuit alleges that, in November, Howmet demanded a “massive price increase” on those titanium materials, beyond the prices specified in the aerospace company’s contract.

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Howmet said, according to the lawsuit, that if the increased prices were not paid, it would not supply the materials.

When Lockheed and its other subcontractors refused to pay the increased price, the lawsuit alleges, Howmet stopped supplying other Lockheed subcontractors with the titanium materials.

“Howmet followed through on its threats and began breaching the subcontract, by failing to deliver titanium materials to certain Lockheed Martin subcontractors that manufacture F-35 components where the titanium materials are needed,” the suit says.

According to the suit, Howmet has made clear that it will not resume supplying the materials unless Lockheed or its subcontractors renegotiates the price of those materials.

In another court filing, Lockheed writes that Howmet’s alleged breach of contract constitutes a national security issue, because it will delay Lockheed’s F-35 delivery.

“Howmet’s failure to abide to its contractual agreement will cause unavoidable and substantial delays in Lockheed Martin’s delivery of F-35 aircraft to the United States, threatening national security and Lockheed Martin’s reputation and goodwill,” the filing says.

A spokesperson for Lockheed said in a Friday email that it is Lockheed’s policy not to comment on pending litigation. A spokesperson for Howmet said in an email that he did not have immediate information to share.

Lockheed is a major employer in Fort Worth, and its F-35 military contracts are worth billions. The defense contractor’s website boasts the F-35 Lightning II as the “centerpiece of 21st century global security.”

Howmet’s website, too, boasts about the company’s involvement in the F-35 program, saying that “Lockheed Martin turned to Howmet Aerospace for many of (the F-35’s) critical parts.” Among other parts, Howmet supplies aluminum and titanium bulkheads, as well as the titanium materials used to create the fighter jet’s frame, according to Howmet’s website.

In the lawsuit, Lockheed is asking the court to force Howmet to fulfill existing and future supply orders at the contractual prices, or otherwise issue a financial award to Lockheed for its damages.