F-35 testers recommend fielding logistics software update

F-35 Patuxent River Integrated Test Force Sustainability Test & Evaluation lead Dave Madera, center, and tester Warren Medlock, left, pose with Lockheed Martin Corp. developers Grace Hwang, second from left, Mike Gibson, second from right, and John Jachimowicz, right, behind a state-of-the-art ODIN Base Kit at the F-35 ITF facility at NAS Patuxent River in August 2020.

F-35 Patuxent River Integrated Test Force (ITF) Supportability Test & Evaluation (ST&E) testers have evaluated the most recent software upgrades for the fifth generation fighter’s logistics information system, and have recommended its fielding to the F-35 Lightning II fleet.

This recommendation lays the foundation for deploying this software update to the fleet beginning this summer. Updates will continue through the year as site and ship operational schedules allow.

Between April and May, the ITF test team evaluated the calendar year 2021 first quarter software release, the first to be configured for two hardware systems, both the legacy Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) Standard Operating Units (SOUs) and the new replacement hardware Operational Data Integrated Network (ODIN) Base Kit (OBK).

OBK is 75% smaller, 90% lighter, and 30% cheaper than the ALIS SOU. Two OBK’s are currently fielded: one at Patuxent River, Maryland, used for testing, and one at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona. The F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office will deploy additional OBKs to other squadrons beginning this summer.

“The new capability worked very well,” said the F-35 Patuxent River ITF ALIS / ODIN ST&E team lead, Dave Madera. This update was noticeably quicker, especially on the OBK, continuing a positive trend seen in the CY2020 updates, he said.

The software includes updates and fixes to address ALIS squadron user-identified issues, Madera said. The good supportability results are a key milestone to get it into their hands and onto their servers.

ALIS gives operators the ability to plan ahead, to maintain, and to plan and sustain the F-35’s systems over the life of the aircraft. In short, it turns maintenance data into actionable information that enables pilots, maintainers and military leaders to make proactive decisions and maintain aircraft mission readiness.

The F-35 is the first tactical aircraft system to have sustainment tools designed in concert with the air vehicle to optimize operations. This focus on sustainment, together with economies of scale realized from a global supply chain for more than 3,000 aircraft, will help control the costs associated with maintaining a fleet of fifth generation fighters.

ALIS is set to be replaced by ODIN hardware and software in the coming years. ODIN will be a cloud-native system that incorporates a new integrated data environment and a new suite of user-centered applications; it will be a significant step forward to improve F-35 fleet’s sustainment and readiness performance.

ODIN will be designed to substantially decrease F-35 administrator and maintainer workload, increase mission capability rates for all F-35 variants, and allow software engineers to rapidly develop and deploy updates in response to emerging warfighter requirements.

In the transition between platforms, ODIN hardware will for a time operate using ALIS software.

“We’re relooking at how we’re going to deliver (ODIN) … informed by dialogue from the users who say, ‘Look, we actually like what we’re starting to see in ALIS a little bit more, so don’t mess it up as you transition it to ODIN.’ So, we’re making sure we’re very deliberate as we move forward,” said F-35 JPO Program Executive Officer, U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Eric T. Fick, during a recent engagement.

Beyond testing, one of ST&E’s key duties is evaluating Integrated Product Support (IPS) elements from a system-user perspective. Feedback from seasoned ALIS / ODIN users is acted upon daily during testing to fix software shortfalls before they are fielded whenever possible, Madera said.

“The warfighter is our primary customer, so we have developed a partnership with JSF’s Military CORE team to add participants from U.S. and partner squadrons during evaluations,” Madera said. “The best ideas for improvement usually come from people who use the system day to day.”