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New F-35 software could quell ALIS sovereignty concerns

Lockheed Martin will begin studying options for adding a software filter to the system that tracks maintenance and training data for the F-35 fighter as part of an effort to limit the amount of data that gets shared with US-based contractors over concerns about privacy and sovereignty.

The US government intends to award a sole source contract to F-35 prime Lockheed to conduct a trade study for connecting a "sovereign data gateway" (SDG) to the autonomic logistics information system (ALIS), according to a 17 October Federal Business Opportunities website announcement.

Lockheed's ALIS is programmed to keep track of thousands of operational details about the F-35 fleet, including data from health monitoring systems on board the aircraft as well as the training and flight logs for each of the pilots. As the global data hub, ALIS is supposed to order parts and schedule training as they are needed, saving operators the burden of managing and back-filling spare inventories. For the system to work, the jet must automatically transmit information after and even during each flight by an F-35 to Lockheed's ALIS hub in Fort Worth, Texas.

But that automated stream of data also worries some of the F-35's international customers.

To address those concerns, the SDG software will remain within the partner country’s central point of entry and will control the flow of data to the Autonomic Logistics Operating Unit (ALOU), the F-35 Joint Programme Office says in an emailed response to questions.

The software will allow each partner country to inspect and verify data flowing to and from the US hub, the JPO stays. The software will also be able to block, modify or delay sensitive data. One example of sensitive data are details in the pilot's training and flight records, which in some countries are protected by privacy laws.

“Most partners have this inspection requirement as a prerequisite to their own certification and approval of ALIS on their national networks,” he says. “An example of SDG's use could be to enforce regulations in place to protect data containing personally identifiable information, which in some cases is subject to national privacy legislation.”

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