The Government Accountability Office (GAO) says that the Pentagon needs to improve the operation of the Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) for the Lockheed Martin [LMT] F-35 fighter to allow the fighter to deploy readily and operate in the Pacific region.
“DoD needs to take steps to assess and mitigate risks associated with key supply chain-related challenges, including the F-35’s central logistics system, and to determine the F-35’s ability to effectively support operations in the Pacific,” per a Feb. 15 GAO National Security Snapshot: Challenges Facing DoD in Strategic Competition with China.
While DoD has implemented a number of GAO recommendations to improve U.S. military readiness in the Pacific, “as of February 2022, GAO has identified additional actions that may better position DoD to address the challenges with China that DoD has not yet implemented.” Among those actions identified as needed by GAO two years ago are developing a process to measure how ALIS issues affect the F-35’s mission capable rates, which have been below 60 percent, and enacting a strategy for the re-design of ALIS.
In 2020, GAO reported that ALIS problems included inaccurate or missing data, challenges deploying, and poor user experience
Between last July and January 2022, the F-35 program and Lockheed Martin fielded the first 14 sets of new, unclassified logistics information hardware, the Operational Data Integrated Network (ODIN) base kit (OBK), for F-35 operational squadrons, the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) said recently (Defense Daily, Jan. 31).
The installations replaced the the more than two decade-old ALIS Standard Operating Unit-Unclassified (SOU-U) server. The OBKs at the 12 locations complete “the initial phase of ODIN hardware rollout, replacing all first-generation unclassified ALIS servers in the field,” the JPO said.
The F-35 program’s use of the cloud-based ODIN may save funds, as the program looks to reduce sustainment and cost-per-flying hour costs (Defense Daily, Oct. 6, 2021).
“GAO currently has ongoing work on the status of the ALIS to ODIN transition where we’ll be providing updated information on the status this spring,” Cathleen Berrick, the managing director of GAO’s defense capabilities and management team, wrote in a Feb. 16 email. “In November 2021, DoD did put together a strategy for how it wants to transition from ALIS-to-ODIN and there has been some progress. This strategy is the first step in what will be an implementation that will have many complexities, and likely won’t be easy.”
Berrick wrote that the Pentagon’s November 2021 strategy addressed the intent of the GAO’s March 2020 recommendations on ALIS, but “there is still considerable work to be done do to fully implement this strategy across the F-35 enterprise.”
While ALIS has 891 pounds of hardware, ODIN is to have just 50 pounds of hardware, and the JPO said that the procurement cost for the new OBK hardware was 30 percent lower than for ALIS. The JPO said that OBK is designed to run ALIS software and future ODIN software applications.
Unlike ALIS, the intellectual property and data components of ODIN are to be be government-owned, not contractor-owned.
Lockheed Martin has said that the F-35 program sought an initial operational capability for ODIN last fall, followed by full operational capability a year later. But it appears that FOC may depend upon how F-35 logistics ranks in the service priority funding scale.
“As part of a larger technology transition strategy, JPO will continue the replacement of all remaining SOU-U servers with OBK hardware in 2022-2023,” the JPO said. “Final phase out of all SOU-U hardware is dependent on funding availability and scheduling constraints for operational squadrons.”
U.S. Air Force Col. Dan Smith, JPO maintenance systems program manager, said in a JPO statement that OBK “allows us to replace hardware before obsolescence issues become critical and it allows us to provide better service to the maintainers.”
Smith said that the F-35 program looks forward “to outfitting the entire fleet with this enhanced capability as schedules and funding permit.”
In September 2020 the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) and Lockheed Martin said that they had agreed on nearly $70.6 million in expected company investments to fix faulty electronic equipment logbooks (EELs) (Defense Daily, Sept. 30, 2020). The EELs help gauge part health. DCMA and Lockheed Martin had been negotiating a possible repayment by Lockheed Martin of $183 million to $303 million of awarded federal funds to the federal government for EEL defects in ALIS.
Since 2014, the Government Accountability Office has called on DoD to establish a performance management process for the F-35’s ALIS, but to no avail.
About 1,000 parts of the 50,000 parts on the F-35 have required an EEL that designates a given part as Ready-for-Issue (RFI) and able to be installed on the F-35. The EEL includes part history and remaining part service life in hours.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Eric Fick, the F-35 program executive officer, said in 2020 that the program, in one effort to address the ALIS issues, was thinking about removing the EEL requirement for about 600 spare parts that are not safety critical nor life limited.
The JPO has said that it expects more deliveries of OBK kits this year, but it remains to be seen whether the F-35 program will be able to resolve the longstanding problems with ALIS in the near term.