F-35 program office announces a ‘strategic pause’ on new logistics system

Valerie Insinna
·3 min read

WASHINGTON — The Defense Department is pausing its efforts to field replacement software for the F-35′s troubled logistics system due to a lack of funding, the head of the F-35 program office said Thursday.

In 2020, the F-35 program executive office announced plans to develop a replacement for the Lockheed Martin-made Autonomic Logistics Information System currently used by maintenance crews to perform functions such as ordering spare parts or logging repair work.

Known as the Operational Data Integrated Network, or ODIN, the new system would combine hardware produced by Lockheed with software coded by the government, allowing the Defense Department to retain more control over the system.

But because of a 42 percent cut to ODIN’s development and testing funding in fiscal year 2021, the program office has decided to take a “strategic pause” in ODIN’s software development effort, said Lt. Gen. Eric Fick, F-35 program executive officer.

“Despite all the positive activities, we underestimated the complexity of deprecating ALIS capabilities while migrating to ODIN and learned several important lessons,” Fick said in April 22 testimony before the House Armed Services Committee.

For years, ALIS has ranked as one of the F-35 enterprise’s biggest headaches. The Government Accountability Office has repeatedly documented problems, such as a bulky “deployable” version of ALIS that cannot connect to the internet or incorrectly signaling to maintainers that a plane is not mission capable due to incorrect data.

“We need to continue to improve the functionality of ALIS in the near term, as we ensure that the ODIN structure that we put into place, from a hardware perspective, from a data environment perspective, and from a software perspective, is what the users need,” Fick told lawmakers during the hearing.

In late 2020, the program office developed an ODIN user agreement and capability needs statement, which lays out what tasks ODIN needs to be able to accomplish and how the system should function, he said.

In addition, “The JPO and Lockheed Martin established a contract that captured data rights, frequent software deliveries, and proper data marking for modern software development,” Fick stated in testimony.

Fick’s testimony did not address when the program office intends to restart ODIN software development efforts, saying only that the JPO will update its plan based on available funding, inputs from the services and its finalized strategy for migrating from ALIS to ODIN.

However, ODIN hardware development is moving forward. Lockheed delivered the first hardware kit for testing at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in September.

“The new kit is 75 percent smaller, weighs 90 percent less than the current hardware, and is projected to be 30 percent cheaper. In addition to the smaller footprint, we are seeing significant performance improvements in ALIS such as data processing and synchronization times 2-3 times faster than ever seen before,” Fick wrote in testimony.

The program office plans to roll out additional kits this summer, which will save money by being able to host multiple squadrons on a single unit, Fick said. The Defense Department plans to invest $471 million into both ALIS and ODIN over the next five years.