The F-35 stealth fighter is getting cheaper to buy and operate but the plane’s networked logistical system still doesn’t work.
That’s the mixed news that top U.S. military officials delivered to Congress on Nov. 13, 2019, according to Air Force Magazine reporter Rachel Cohen.
Since 2018, the cost of flying an F-35 for one hour has dropped by nine percent to $44,000, F-35 program executive officer Lt. Gen. Eric Fick told lawmakers. The Pentagon by 2025 hopes to drive down the plane’s hourly operating cost to $25,000, which is around as much as a much older F-16 costs to fly.
But problems with the Lockheed Martin-made stealth fighter’s Autonomic Logistics Information System have hindered the military’s efforts to stabilize and drive down costs while also improving the F-35’s readiness.
Lockheed since the early 2000s has delivered around 400 F-35s to the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marines Corps against a total Pentagon requirement for around 2,300 of the single-engine planes. The F-35 is on track to replace many of the military’s older fighters including F-16s, F/A-18s and AV-8Bs.
American F-35s began flying combat missions in 2018.
Lockheed’s ALIS was supposed to simplify the F-35’s logistics. Pilots and maintainers can use the computer-based system to plan missions, order spare parts and view technical data.
But ALIS never has worked right. The Pentagon is already looking for a replacement system even as it struggles to get ALIS to function, Cohen reported.
Fick said the Pentagon is fielding ALIS 3.5, an updated version that includes around 300 fixes. “That comes as Air Force software coders, employees of F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin, and others continue to roll out software patches for the jet and ALIS,” Cohen added.
“Over the past year, the department has delivered three ALIS software updates and we are on track to release quarterly releases to rapidly improve current performance—a vast improvement from the 18 months between software updates in the past,” Pentagon acquisition chief Ellen Lord chimed in.