WASHINGTON --- When computer "hackers" working for the U.S. Navy succeeded in breaking into the computer logistics system that controls the Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 Joint Strike Fighter earlier this year, they did the company a favor: allowing it to fix a critical vulnerability in the $396 billion program.
Now, as the Marine Corps prepares to set up its first operational squadron of F-35s next week, some experts say other security risks may lurk within such a large and highly networked weapons support system.
One concern: Lockheed shored up political backing for the F-35 by choosing suppliers in nearly every U.S. state. But having such a large and widely dispersed group increases exposure to cyber attacks, said Ben Freeman, national security investigator with the non-profit Project on Government Oversight.
"Even if Lockheed has top-notch cyber security, it's still vulnerable if its subcontractors are vulnerable," he said.
But Lockheed's complex maintenance and support system for the F-35, known as ALIS, or Autonomic Logistics Information System, is under attack on another front, too.
The Pentagon is talking to Lockheed competitors this week about running that system and others needed to operate and maintain the new plane, in an effort to rein in F-35 maintenance costs estimated at up to $1.1 trillion over the next 50 years.
If the Pentagon ousted Lockheed from running the system it built, the defense giant could lose billions in anticipated revenue. With a price tag in the billions of dollars, ALIS is large enough to be considered a major weapons program on its own. (end of excerpt)
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