PARIS --- In its clearest admission to date that the system does not currently work as required, the Pentagon has decided to re-design the F-35 program’s Autononomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) “in accordance with current information technology and software development best practices.”
The flaws in the ALIS, a computerized maintenance tool, are well-documented but persist, despite claims by Lockheed Martin that its reliability is improving. ALIS doesn’t “yet perform as intended,” as some data and functions deficiencies “have a significant effect on aircraft availability” and launching flights,” Bloomberg reported Jan 30 quoting the latest report by the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test & Evaluation, due to be released this week.
Maintenance personnel and pilots “must deal w pervasive problems w data integrity, completeness on a daily basis,” the report says.
A Jan. 18 notice posted by the Naval Air Systems Command on the Federal Business Opportunity website said the new contract will cover “Continued development, installation/integration, testing, training, and delivery of the F-35 Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS)….and will include both new capability development and current software maintenance and sustainment.”
Designated “ALIS Next,” the redesign is intended to “provide significant improvements in affordability, supportability, resiliency, and cybersecurity,” a spokesman for the F-35 Joint Program Office told Inside Defense, which first reported the FBO notice.
Despite the company’s lackluster performance on ALIS to date, the Pentagon still plans to award the new, five-year contract to Lockheed Martin without competing it, because “Lockheed Martin alone has the experience, special skills, proprietary technical documentation, software/algorithms, and technical expertise required to furnish the supplies and services within the required timeframe,” according to the FBO notice.
The contract should be awarded by year-end, after the F-35 completes its Initial Operational Test & Evaluation (IOT&E), and should run until 2025.
This means it will parallel other efforts to improve the F-35, such as the Block 4 upgrade and various technology refresh contracts intended to finally deliver aircraft that are fully compliant with the original operational requirement -- after a quarter-century of development.
However, MIT Lincoln Labs, MITRE Corp., and the Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) will also be involved in the ALIS Next redesign, Inside Defense reported.
ALIS Next is clearly intended as a large, multi-agency effort to fix the many flaws, bugs and errors found in the current system since it first began to monitor and support F-35 flight operations over a decade ago.
The US Air Force on January 7 said it was hiring over 50 civilian employees to “help the Air Force tackle its most vexing software issues, including …. the F-35’s Autonomous Logistics Information System, or ALIS,” at its Kessel Run Experimentation Lab in Boston, Mass.
Intriguingly for a program that has six foreign nations as partners, and four more as customers through the Foreign Military Sales program, the FBO notice warns that “The data associated with the F-35 JPO is export controlled and is not available to foreign sources or representatives.”