In 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Lockheed Martin [LMT] said it was able as a federal government-deemed essential business to hire 12,000 workers, and the company is now on the hunt for 5,000 workers, including 300 for F-16 sustainment and production at the company’s Greenville, S.C., plant.

Lockheed Martin reported it had 114,000 workers globally at the end of last year–the same as in 2020, but an increase of 9,000 since the end of 2018 and 4,000 since the end of 2019.

In its annual report in January, the company said that, in 2021, it had hired “more than 10,000 employees, despite the continuing challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“An integral part of our people strategy is early career hiring through college and intern pipelines, particularly in technical fields,” the report said. “In addition to efforts focused on recruitment, we also monitor employee attrition across a broad array of categories and segments of the population, including with respect to diversity and top talent.”

Asked on CBS NewsFace the Nation on May 8 whether Lockheed Martin has enough workers to meet the demand for systems, including the F-35, company CEO Jim Taiclet replied, “We have enough now, but we know, for example, in the F-16 line as well that we’re building up in South Carolina…we need more workers, and so we’re recruiting heavily.”

Lockheed Martin said on May 9 that it is looking for 300 avionics technicians and structures, airframe/power plant mechanics for F-16 work in Greenville, S.C., and that the company needs some 200 coaters, painters, and structures, electrical and electronics mechanics in Marietta, Ga., for building the F-35 center wing and the C-130J airlifter. In addition, the company is looking for 400 workers for engineering and production at Palmdale, Calif., the location of the company’s Skunk Works division.

A number of the jobs above come with up to $15,000 signing bonuses, Lockheed Martin said.

Foreign military sales of the Block 70/72 version of the F-16 and U.S. Air Force upgrades under the Post Block Integration Team project of as many as 608 Block 40 and Block 50 F-16s are keeping the F-16 line alive. The Air Force F-16s are to receive 22 modifications, including Link 16 capability and the Northrop Grumman [NOC] APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar (Defense Daily, March 16).

In January, Lockheed Martin said that its Greenville plant had returned to the Air Force the first upgraded F-16 after receiving the plane last spring following a December 2020 $900 million Air Force contract to provide sustainment and depot-overflow services for F-16s.

“We’ve got a very strong workforce in Fort Worth, Texas, where we make the F-35 so that production line is running just fine now,” Taiclet told CBS News on May 8. “We’ve got sufficient employees there to do that. But in other parts of the country and ultimately in Texas, we’re going to need to actually hire more people.”

In March, less than a month after Russian dictator Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, the German Ministry of Defense announced its plan to buy F-35s to replace the dozens of Tornado fighters in the German fleet by 2030 (Defense Daily, March 14).

The announcement came on the same day that German Minister of Defense Christine Lambrecht met with Amy Gutmann, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, about fortifying NATO.

“The F-35 offers unique potential for cooperation with our NATO allies and other partners in Europe,” Lambrecht said at the time. The German Ministry of Defense also said that it will retain the more than 100 Eurofighters in the German fleet and develop them for electronic warfare (EW).

German Air Force Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz said then that the F-35 buy and the development of the Eurofighter for EW leave the German Air Force “very well positioned for the future.”