ALIS photo

ALIS (Autonomic Logistics Information System) downloads maintenance data from an F-35.

UPDATED: Lockheed React To Bogdan On ALIS.

NEWSEUM: The key maintenance software program for the F-35, called ALIS, is “way behind,” Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, head of the program, said today. How far behind? “We are way behind. We are way behind.”

Bogdan told a conference hosted by Credit Suisse and organized by Jim McAleese here that he “could spend hours talking about what’s right and what’s wrong with ALIS,” the Autonomic Logistics Information System. But he kept it pretty short. Program leaders realized the system, designed to monitor the aircraft’s systems and maintenance needs, was a hell of a lot more important and complex than they had originally foreseen. “It is way more important and way more complicated than that,” Bogdan said, adding that it needs to be treated “like its own weapon system.”

While the program is “in catch-up mode with ALIS,” Bogdan said they were beginning to see improvements in the system. The latest software update was done at Eglin Air Force Base this weekend. “Normally with ALIS we would take one step forward and two steps back. This time we actually took a step forward and didn’t take a step back. That is encouraging, that because of the way we are changing the development of ALIS we starting to see results. But we are way behind. We are way behind.”

Lockheed Martin defended the program, while acknowledging the problems. “We recognize ALIS has had challenges and we are working with our Joint Program Office and field users to address them,” spokesman Mike Rein said in an email. “An ALIS software update is currently undergoing installation across F-35 bases for increased processing speed. We are incorporating user feedback to further advance the system and intend to field the next major release of ALIS in first quarter of 2015 to provide additional capability. ALIS is maturing in parallel with the aircraft and our team is committed to delivering the most advanced and capable fleet management system with ALIS.”

On the cracked bulkheads found during ground lifecycle testing of the F-35Bs — the Marine aircraft –Bogdan said “his biggest worry” about them is that there are planes on the production line due to receive the bulkhead models that cracked. He said he has “challenged Lockheed to figure out a way to get that fix done as quickly as possible” so he doesn’t have to buy jets and fix them later on.

The other area — related to ALIS — is that the F-35s produced so far are not meeting readiness standards.  “Parts are failing more often then we expected and when they fail they take longer to repair and maintainability on the airplane is just taking too long to repair,” Bogdan said. “The good news is we have the wherewithal and the capability to conquer all those problems with the money we have been given.”

All this doubtless has given rise to many acquisition lessons learned. Bogdan, former program manager of the KC-X airborne tanker program, noted he had compiled a pamphlet about the lessons he learned there. “We are probably going to end up doing the same for F-35,” he said. “Instead of a pamphlet we may need an encylopedia because of all the things we didn’t get right.”

Some more hopeful news for Lockheed and the program: Bogdan said he was pretty sure South Korea would buy F-35s. He was less categoric about Singapore, but he clearly thinks it’s likely the city-state will buy the aircraft. Breaking Defense readers already knew that, of course.


  • Curtis Conway

    The Operational Readiness and Test Set (ORTS) in the Aegis Combat System was an early 2nd thought device included in the combat system that monitored the health of the various elements of the system and utilized a lot of Built In Test (BIT) already available in much of the equipment that was already interfaced. The importance and reliance on the information provided required it to become a core element of the combat system. No modern combat system fielded today should ignore this experience. These types of “add-ons” to systems are key elements for determination of system health on a real time basis, and trouble shoot problems as they occur. Many times system element failures can be predicted. Much data is available from the system that helps determine high-failure items, and operational hardware/software/firmware problems through automated data recording, and reports generated from that data. A long term strategy to improve system reliability and effectiveness is to include these techniques as primary functional element and a central capability from day one.

  • Don Bacon

    The Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) has been described as “perhaps the most advanced and comprehensive set of diagnostic, prognostic, and health management capabilities yet to be applied to an aviation platform.”

    ALIS is a globally distributed data collection and dissemination program that allows operators to plan ahead, maintain and sustain the F-35 throughout an individual plane’s life cycle. It integrates operations, maintenance, prognostics, supply chain, customer support and technical data and makes it available at a moment’s notice for pilots and maintenance staff worldwide. The plane can’t fly without it.

    ALIS is the largest part (lines of code) of the F-35 Program and does not actually run on the F-35 for the most part. The F-35 software system is reported to have 24 million lines of code.

    The recent test report, after twelve years of development, was not favorable.

    The Program Office continues to develop and field ALIS in incremental capabilities similar to the mission systems capability in the air vehicle. Overall, the ALIS is immature and behind schedule, which adversely affects maintainability and sortie generation. Shortfalls in functionality and data quality integrity require workarounds and manual intervention. To date, diagnostic system performance has failed to meet basic functional requirements, including fault detection, fault isolation, and false alarm rates.

    • bridgebuilder78

      ‘Distributed data collection’ AND ‘dissemination’?

      Lockmart should definitely rope in the NSA to speed up the development of ALIS.

      • Don Bacon

        General Schmidle:

        “I think conceptually it makes a lot of sense, but we have to be very mindful of someone wanting to do nefarious things inside the networks,” Schmidle said. He and our other authoritative source said shrinking the hardware for ALIS shouldn’t be too hard. But ensuring the security of the network and providing robust and useful software will be a serious challenge.

        China has already stolen the plane’s design documents.

        • bridgebuilder78

          Heh, this is one way for the Chinese to get their money back.

        • bridgebuilder78

          Let’s entrust the NSA with stealing it back.

          • Don Bacon

            The NSA has other important priorities, like constantly tracking your location using cell phone tower triangulation.

          • bridgebuilder78

            I doubt the NSA cares about where I am at any given moment; but it can always recommend to the IRS that my tax rate be raised.

  • Don Bacon

    Some more hopeful news for Lockheed and the program: Bogdan said he was pretty sure South Korea would buy F-35s. He was less categoric about Singapore, but he clearly thinks it’s likely the city-state will buy the aircraft.

    Regarding sales of this aircraft, and its meager international sales to date, regardless of what Bogdan is pretty sure of, any purchases made before achievement of a Milestone C production decision, currently (optimistically) scheduled for April 2019, are foolish. The current crop of planes are prototypes, with many problems. The culmination of system development and demonstration is due to be complete in 2019.

    But no F-35 development milestone has been achieved on time, and there’s no reason to believe, given the vast extent of problems noted in test and other reports, that the Milestone C production decision will be achieved in April 2019.

  • ELP

    Lots of JSF JORD requirements will not be met. Performance, affordability, sustainability. Go back and look at all the assumptions in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. It might as well be from another world.

  • PolicyWonk

    Lockheed Martin defended the program, while acknowledging the problems. “We recognize ALIS has had challenges and we are working with our Joint Program Office and field users to address them,” spokesman Mike Rein said in an email.

    There is little defense of the fraud imposed on the US taxpayers on the part of Lockheed, who’s flying misadventure is unable to meet even the reduced mission profiles accepted when it became obvious the F-35 would never meet the originals.

    Why this incompetently run program is permitted to allow Lockheed to profit by even one thin dime is beyond me. Their corporate leadership should be thanking their lucky stars they aren’t imprisoned for defrauding the US government and taxpayers.

    Instead, all we get to do is grind our teeth, knowing that this corporate welfare program is delivering lousy quality product at maximum cost to the taxpayers, while simultaneously sacrificing our national security.

  • Don Bacon

    General Bogdan wants to compete the logistical support of this plane if it ever does go into service, which is doubtful. But the government doesn’t have the data rights.

    Bogdan has said that nobody asked about until about 18 months ago. He thinks the government should own the data rights as much as possible, and wants to fight hard to secure them, but admitted that these discussions with Lockheed Martin, involving lawyers on both sides, are “nowhere near done.”

    Lockheed owns all the taxpayer-funded development tech data rights which means they own the whole program forever — procurement, operations and support.

    from LM powerpoint, MOU to Canada

    Notice to U.S. Government
    Access to this printed document or electronic file does not constitute delivery of the data to the U.S. Government as contemplated under the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) or DoD FAR Supplement (DFARS). By proceeding to view the data contained herein, you acknowledge that the data is confidential and contains trade secrets and/or privileged information of Lockheed Martin or its subcontractors and suppliers. . .

  • Soloman

    Thanks for the news. In the meantime here you can take a look at some cool F-35 photos:
    F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Pictures

  • Andrew Robertson

    The US Navy is sitting back and laughing at the US Air Force and US Marine Corps right now. The ALIS is what most of the 24 million lines of software code are for and without it the JSF won’t deliver on anything LM promised regarding operational maintenance and readiness. The F-35 will be a complete hanger queen.

    According to the new 2015 budget releases, the Air Force has decided to not upgrade any of their F-16 fleet of over 1,000 that is due to fall apart from age this next decade. They have 254 F-15C/D’s with an average age pushing 29 years old now. That is older than most of the F-16s. They plan on killing the A-10. They already retired the F-117. Their younger fighter fleet consists of only 220 F-15E’s and 187 F-22’s. Everything depends on the F-35A and now that’s failed.

    The US Marine Corps has all but abandoned their Legacy Hornet fleet of 238 aircraft for the F-35B. They said they can keep the Harrier alive until 2030, but it will be pitifully insufficient for a majority conflicts well before then. Marine Corps tactical air depends entirely on the F-35B which looks worse than the A-model does right now.

    On the other hand, the US Navy has 563 Super Hornets and 135 Growlers, all young aircraft with modern avionics and the ability to be upgraded to handle future combat. The F-35C shows no sign of it ever being able to land on a carrier or even becoming compatible with the carrier environment. Whether or not the new 2015 budget released on March 4th includes funding for more Super Hornet purchases is still undetermined, but no matter what happens, it looks like for the next two decades at least US forces will be reliant on the US Navy for tactical air power.

    • Don Bacon

      Agreed. The only improvement for Navy would be if we learned that Admiral Greenert, the only service chief worth his salt, sabotaged the CV tailhook, but of course he didn’t so we’ll be satisfied with him being on the top of his game on this matter.

    • Gregory Dittman

      A 1990s era Patriot missile downed a top of the line F-18 during Operation Desert Storm. Things that are obsolete now include chaff, flares and jamming. With the use of IR targeting systems, it looks stealth may also be obsolete. IR systems are completely passive and mixed with radar and AI software, can’t be jammed. Already the 4.5 generation aircraft are obsolete to modern anti aircraft missiles.

      The F-35 is probably already obsolete since the UK is making a drone that can do much of the same stuff as the F-35.

  • Jon

    I don’t understand why the Pentagon bought this aircraft before it was fully developed? It seems like a good ship, or will one day become one. However the price increases and setbacks are mind numbing.
    Also, why not build the F-22 again with electronic upgrades. I’ve read that the tooling is stored. Keeping the F-15 and F-18 lines going seem like good sense. Are they not competitive aircraft, especially with the latest radars and weapons?