Last August, Australia's defence minister Linda Reynolds praised a computerised system that has a crucial role in the operation of Australia's new F-35 fighter planes. Senator Reynolds described the system as "a cost-effective solution for key aspects of Australia's F-35 maintenance management". Once again, Defence was guilty of wishful thinking. In reality, the system called ALIS (Autonomic Logistics Information System) was far from cost-effective.
In contrast to Senator Reynolds, Heather Wilson, the secretary of the US Air Force in February 2019 recognised that ALIS was a costly failure. She said, "I can guarantee that no Air Force maintainer will ever name their daughter Alice". In January this year, the Pentagon announced it would scrap ALIS because it was causing operational delays of 45,000 hours a year.
A replacement system called ODIN (Operational Data Integrated Network) is now being developed by the F-35's manufacturer Lockheed Martin which was responsible for designing ALIS in the first place. The GAO said Pentagon officials had trouble contributing to ODIN's development because Lockheed Martin refused to share key information such as computer source code which it guards as its own intellectual property.
The new system is also likely to suffer costly faults. A report by the Congressional Research Service in May quoted a former F-35 program manager General Christopher Bodgan as saying, "Complexity of the software worries us the most... Software development is always really, really tricky."
Defence gives an average price per plane of less than A$126 million for Australia's 72 F-35s when fully delivered. But the Australian Strategy Policy Institute estimates the sustainment costs to be triple those of the F-18 fighters it replaces. (end of excerpt)
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