As the U.S. Air Force looks to operate effectively from sparse areas under the Agile Combat Employment (ACE) concept, the Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) for the service’s Lockheed Martin [LMT] F-35As may need to adapt to ensure parts get to front line forces on time.

“One of the challenges that we are working on is reliability when you’re conducting disconnected operations when you’re not connected to ALIS,” Air Force Col. David “Ajax” Berkland, commander of the 354th Fighter Wing at Eielson AFB, Alaska, told an Air & Spaces Forces Association virtual forum on Aug. 10.

“We have seen some of that [operating while disconnected from ALIS] as a challenge,” he said. “We are working through that. It has not been a mission stop, but anything that we could get from industry–certainly from Lockheed Martin–to help us navigate that. That’s really what we’re looking to do in the future–more of that type of austere operating location type operations with ‘hub and spoke’ scenarios. That’s where I see the next challenge is coming down, but thus far reliability has not been an issue for us.”

Eielson has 54 relatively new F-35As, and the 354th Wing’s F-35As have participated in exercises and deployments in the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command area of responsibility. Eielson is adjacent to the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex and close to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

Next year, the Air Force wants to begin fielding ODIN–a cloud-based, government-owned logistics software system to replace ALIS (Defense Daily, April 25).

While Lockheed Martin has owned ALIS data rights, the F-35 program has said that the federal government will have the data rights to ODIN.

“Recently, we were at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan,” Berkland said on Aug. 10 of the 354th Wing. “We needed a part for one of our F-35s. We are looking at that part there at Iwakuni because the Marines have it, and they’ve got it available. We have to go back through Lockheed and through some degree of bureaucracy to get approval to source that part, which may, or may not, come from Iwakuni though it’s there and available for us…If we could get more flexibility in that arrangement so that we could source that part more flexibly, I think that would be a game changer for us.”

Another challenge “is the logistics train of how long sometimes it takes to get something to a place, if it’s not there, and advocating for the right priority of when it needs to be there,” Air Force Lt. Col. Ryan “Voodoo” Worrell, the commander of the 356th Fighter Squadron at Eielson, said during the Aug. 10 virtual forum.

“Being in Alaska, we are kind of the end of the logistics train for most of our parts and supplies,” Worrell said. “A lot of the models have gone to the part is ready at the time of need, not as a bench stock. So, there’s a couple of initiatives we’re working–particularly with flight equipment–to make sure that we have a bench stock available because, if I take away a pilot’s helmet, he’s not gonna fly. The way that it’s built and each helmet being custom fit per pilot creates more of a problem waiting for that part, that new DU [display unit], to come in, which may take five or six days, versus just having a couple extras on the back side, and then we’ll bring those with us when we’re out on an ACE event.”

“That then becomes our caution–when we do go on an ACE or any expeditionary event,” he said. “How much do you bring? Do you bring the whole kitchen sink or just enough? One of the pieces we’re working through is tailoring those cargo loads to bring just what we need to sustain the initial operations under the assumption that we’re gonna have a follow-on backfill, and then we have to have reliable communications to communicate what we need on that two-week out shipment that’s coming in.”