Lockheed Martin has gone live with the information network that will support the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter when it enters service in 2012, an unprecedented step this early in the life of the aircraft, which only entered flight testing in December.

The F-35 autonomic logistic information system (ALIS) has been formally switched on and will begin capturing data from the first test aircraft, which has so far completed 17 flights from Lockheed’s Fort Worth, Texas plant.

ALIS is a web-based information management system that will automate the capturing, analysing and communicating of F-35 maintenance and support data, initially at Fort Worth but eventually globally.

“Historically this has not been done this early, to support the first aircraft, and it has not come on line until the aircraft is fielded,” says Kimberley Gavaletz, vice-president for F-35 autonomic logistics and global sustainment.

The formal turn-on comes as F-35 flight testing gathers pace. The first aircraft, AA-1, completed two flights in one day for the first time on 26 April.

The initial release of ALIS software provides just under 40% of the capabilities planned for the system development and demonstration phase of the JSF programme, Kevin LeBeau, ALIS integrated product team director.

Initially information the aircraft will be entered manually by maintainers, but an upgrade is planned to allow the first F-35 to downlink data in flight, in real time.

Using ALIS, maintainers will inspect the aircraft, find the failed part and trigger the supply chain to deliver a replacement to the flight line. By the time the second F-35 flies in May next year, maintainers will be able to run built-in checks, move the flight controls and get status information from the aircraft via ruggedised laptop computer.

An operations centre has been established at Forth Worth to provide sustaining engineering and other services. Other network nodes will be established at Edwards AFB in California and NAS Patuxent River in Maryland to support F-35 flight testing, and at Eglin AFB in Florida when pilot training begins.

The initial ALIS release includes commercial software tools including the Maintenix maintenance management system developed by Canada’s Mxi Technologies for use by airlines; IFS Applications for supply-chain management; and Siebel for customer relationship management.

An autonomic logistics and global sustainment operations centre has already been established at Forth Worth the will provide sustaining engineering and other services in support of the F-35.

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Source: FlightGlobal.com