Australia’s first two F-35A aircraft to be permanently based at RAAF Base Williamtown are on schedule to arrive in December and a substantial body of work is happening behind the scenes to make sure the aircraft can successfully operate in Australia.
The “backbone” of the F-35A air system is the Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS).
ALIS provides the essential off-board information system infrastructure – hardware, software and data – that performs maintenance management, fault diagnostics, supply support, mission planning and training management across the F-35 weapon system.
ALIS was first housed in the F-35A Off-Board Information Systems Centre (OBISC) in July 2017. The OBISC facility provides the sovereign ability to independently verify and test ALIS and its sub-components to establish their impact on the Australian F-35A capability. It also provides a facility in which Air Force can develop and test new processes in an isolated environment without impacting operations.
Project Director Support Systems Group Captain (GPCAPT) Guy Adams, of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Division, said the installation of Australia’s first operational ALIS presence was completed at No. 2 Operational Conversion Unit (2OCU) at Williamtown in April.
“ALIS is a key enabler and prerequisite for the Australian F-35A arrival and sustainment of the aircraft in-country,” GPCAPT Adams said.
“The ALIS hardware will progressively be installed at the new No. 3 and 77 Squadron buildings at Williamtown and at RAAF Base Tindal for No. 75 Squadron.”
The Chief Information Officer Group (CIOG) has authorised the connection of ALIS to the broader F-35 enterprise, which enables Australia to share F-35 sustainment information with the global program.
“This is an important step in establishing Australia’s sustainment solution for the F-35A because it enables receipt of the latest technical information for our aircraft, while providing access to the globally distributed network of F-35 support capabilities,” GPCAPT Adams said.
The installation of ALIS at 2OCU taught the project team valuable lessons that will be used to improve efficiency in future ALIS installations at No. 3, 77 and 75 Squadrons, according to GPCAPT Adams.
“The recent install of ALIS into the 2OCU building is a fantastic achievement that will enable our first two aircraft to be delivered to No. 3 Squadron in December onto a wholly Australian system,” he said.
It’s all about teamwork
As one of the most technologically-sophisticated fast jets in the world, a collaborative acquisition and sustainment effort for the F-35A is essential.
GPCAPT Adams said the successful installation of ALIS in 2OCU was a combined effort. “In addition to the information systems team within the JSF Division, which was responsible for the coordination, integration and management of the ALIS install, members of the OBISC provided expertise and manpower for all technical issues during the install and testing,” he said.
“The information systems and OBISC teams worked closely with the US F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO), as well as members of the US Department of Defense and other partner nations to understand the challenges and opportunities in the integration of ALIS into sovereign infrastructure.”
GPCAPT Adams’ Support Systems team also worked with members of Estate and Infrastructure Group to ensure the 2OCU building was fit for purpose; the JSF Division security team for ongoing cyber security management and facility accreditation; and members of CIOG.
“CIOG plays a core role in assisting to maximise ALIS functionality in Australia and the JSF Division has been fortunate to have an embedded CIOG Military Platform Integration team to assist the project,” he said.
“CIOG’s involvement has achieved financial savings and significantly assisted with the integration of F-35 Off-Board Information Systems with existing Defence infrastructure. This relationship would be a model for future projects to follow.”
He said other agencies, including the Australian Signals Directorate, No. 462 Squadron and Telstra, continued to directly contribute to the project.
“We have also worked closely with the JPO, Lockheed Martin Aero and RMS (Rotary & Mission Systems) to collaborate on improving Australia’s understanding of ALIS and its sub-components.”
F-35 prime contractor Lockheed Martin is expected to deliver the first F-35 Deployable Information Facility (DIF) and Deployable Duty Facility (DDF) to Defence in the middle of this year.
During F-35A operations away from a home base, the DIF will provide a secure operating environment for ALIS while the DDF will provide secure facilities to support mission planning and debriefing.
GPCAPT Adams said these deployable facilities would enable Air Force to “rapidly deploy F-35A aircraft to locations around the world in support of the Government’s objectives”.
The path to capability in 2020
Australia’s implementation of ALIS was critical to prove functionality and effectiveness on the F-35A’s path to initial operating capability (IOC).
GPCAPT Adams said Air Force expected to declare IOC by the end of 2020.
“The OBISC and associated ALIS staff will support and enable F-35A verification and validation activities in the lead-up to IOC,” he said.
“As we move closer to IOC and final operating capability in December 2023, roles and responsibilities will progressively transition from the JSF Division to No. 81 Wing and the Air Combat Systems Program Office.”