Thursday, April 21, 2016

ALIS in Wonderland

ALIS (Autonomic Logistics Information System), the software that controls the F-35’s maintenance, parts, and mission planning, is the heart and soul of the F-35 as we’ve been told repeatedly.  Of course, it’s also been a monumental failure so far.  An anonymous commenter alerted me to this latest bit about the system.   Thanks for the heads up!

“And now, in a surprising twist, General Bogdan is saying ALIS is not really critical after all, insisting the F-35 can fly without it for 30 days.” (1)

Follow the link below and go read the article.  It’s short but packed with goodies.  There’s nothing I can add that the article doesn’t already cover quite nicely.  Check it out.


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(1)Project On Government Oversight, “F-35 Chief: Critical Logistics Software Not Really That Critical”, Dan Grazier, 20-Apr-2016,

11 comments:

  1. That's the story of the F-35. When it started out it was the 'low' to the F-22's 'High'.

    We heard AF generals say that the F-22 was supposed to provide air superiority while the F-35 did attack.

    " “If I do not keep that F-22 fleet viable, the F-35 fleet frankly will be irrelevant. The F-35 is not built as an air superiority platform. It needs the F-22,” says (michael) Hostage to Air Force Times."

    F-35 was supposed to be 'budget' stealth, but never competing with the F-22.

    But as the program got more vital to the AF, and people got more desperate, that changed.

    I'm reading in 'Breaking Defense' that:

    “The F-35 is orders of magnitude better than the F-22 (which is the greatest air to air fighter ever built)".

    This is just along the same lines. 'ALIS is vital! It will cut costs! Allow us to keep more planes in the air'.

    Now its not important because it would keep the F-35 from a potential IOC. An IOC that, if missed, would add more fuel to an already hot fire.

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  2. "And just this year, General Bogdan said, “It is a software-intensive system that connects to almost every piece of the F-35 program.”".............so it's ok that you have maintainers that can download it on a CD, maybe even install it on another computer, copy it, send it on a civilian network and then you can guarantee that there's not going to be any "bugs"? sure......

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  3. Its not a great article unfortunately, because it sort of misunderstands that we can change anything.

    Once upon a time, the F35 wouldnt fly unless ALIS has been connected in the last 6 hours.
    But thats a human condition built in to the software.
    Theres no reason you cant change that to the plane wont fly unless ALIS has been connected in the last 6 seconds, 6 minutes or six years.

    I'm pretty sure once upon a time STEAM wouldnt work without an internet connection.

    "maintainers even had to manually burn data onto CDs and drive off base to send the massive files across a civilian WiFi network."
    Although that sounds ominous, its a network issue, ALIS was being rejected by the airforce network, it happens.
    Ive just finished a contract where I had different logons for the network, the secure network, and the MI module, because for some reason they couldnt triple credential my logons, they fixed it the day I left...

    It sounds like a pretty normal process of software creep and director level interference.

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    1. There is a term for what you are doing it is called ENABLING.

      Yes we can change anything. But the management team has proven completely incapable of doing ANYTHING that heads this program in the right direction.

      I am optimistic by nature also, but once you start enabling you have to get out of the relationship. That or shoot the dog and by a puppy you can train.

      If fixing the network logon is all it takes ona CRTITICAL part of the BIGGEST program EVER, why can't a 3 star make that happen?

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    2. "why can't a 3 star make that happen?"
      Because a 25* once said all network requests have to go through an office that doesnt exist anymore, just like a 25* once said "F35s cant fly unless they have spoken to ALIS that day", not understanding the huge impact that has on the wider world.

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    3. From what little technical information has been revealed about ALIS, the problem seems a good deal deeper than simple logons or timers. The program is intimately linked to everything on or associated with the aircraft. Thus, weapons can't be released, engines can't be started, etc. until and unless ALIS's myriad checks and failsafes are satisfied.

      ALIS is also the mission planning tool for the F-35 and that's another major limitiation.

      Also, the F-35's rosy predicitons for operating costs were based on ALIS achieving a near-miraculous level of cost savings through it's magical preventive and actual maintenance benefits (a highly dubious claim but the basis for the savings claim, nonetheless). If ALIS is terminated or bypassed, the claimed operating savings go with it and the aircraft becomes hideously expensive to operate and maintain (it already is but it becomes even more so).

      The mistake was made on day one when the decision to integrate ALIS into literally every piece and every aspect of the F-35 was made.

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    4. You might also recall that the Marine's experience during their staged operational eval showed that the upload/downloads for the aircraft's mission data was taking several hours each and impacting availabilities.

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    5. "From what little technical information has been revealed about ALIS, the problem seems a good deal deeper than simple logons or timers."

      Maybe, maybe not

      "The program is intimately linked to everything on or associated with the aircraft. Thus, weapons can't be released, engines can't be started, etc. until and unless ALIS's myriad checks and failsafes are satisfied. "
      True, but thats a choice, it can be switched off very easily, that may present other problems, but theres a line of code that says, "Before starting engine, check ALIS", that can be deleted.

      "ALIS is also the mission planning tool for the F-35 and that's another major limitiation."
      That sounds like one of those 25* limitations, a workaround would be to split the mission planning module off, I can think of a few reasons to attach it, but none are that great. Im guessing it started as an after mission download so ALIS knew exactly what the plane had been subjected too and someone decided it would be a good idea to load that in advance too.

      "Also, the F-35's rosy predicitons for operating costs were based on ALIS achieving a near-miraculous level of cost savings through it's magical preventive and actual maintenance benefits "
      A lot of parts on planes are replaced when they have many many hours of life left in them, using a conservative Mean Time Before Failure system, but a plane that flies a fairly steady flight subjects its parts to very different levels of stress than a plane that is in a sustained dogfight. If the plane records the forces its subjected too, we can greatly stretch out the life of parts, and quite likely prevent a lot of in flight failures too.

      "The mistake was made on day one when the decision to integrate ALIS into literally every piece and every aspect of the F-35 was made."
      That I agree with, its a very very very common failing within the software world unfortunately.
      Apologies if I'm speaking to you like an idiot in this next bit.

      You'll probably be reading this on a laptop
      Your laptop will have an operating system, Windows
      If you want to write a letter, you open word, if you want to do a budget you open excel, if you want to read my semi literate ramblings you open a web browser

      Theres a Computer, an Operating System, and a near limitless collection of tools we use to do specific tasks.

      And then what you sometimes get, a programs that try to replicate the OS, STEAM, for example, does this, and it does it quite well, other things try to do this, and they do it appalingly badly.

      I've never say down with ALIS, so I cant do any more than guess, but it very much sounds like the individual tools are unnecessarily shackled to ALIS, and they really dont need to be.

      It should be a collection of tools that talk to each other, not a tool in and of itself, if that makes sense.
      The upload/download speeds sound like that exact issue.

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  4. The other thing that worries me about ALIS is its role in the actual mission.

    My understanding is that each pilot gets a brick, that has information from ALIS, about targeting, waypoints, etc.

    That's fine for bombing Syria. But ALIS is going to be networked by necessity. Wouldn't that make it a huge hacking target for a peer?

    China being able to get into ALIS, and ALIS having a key role in mission planning, could be a big problem.

    Heck, a peer who wanted to embarrass us might have alot to do to want to hack ALIS. Move those targeting coordinates from the terrorist stronghold to the village school two clicks away and we look like monsters.

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    1. Agree, this system already looks very vulnerable to hacking, it's a HUGE target in itself!

      I also wonder if this isn't one of the reasons Israelis aren't that hot about Alice in Wonderland. Could there be a GPS lock if their jets start heading towards Iran? Israelis are talking about some kind of app that will be above F35 mission system, I don't think it's just so they can have their own C4, I think they are worried about having their actions limited by ALICE.

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  5. This may be the closest thing that we will get from the USAF that the ALIS system is in seriously bad shape.

    The entire project should be scrapped given the dependency on ALIS and the inability of the software to perform to specifications.

    Of course, it's reached a point where it is too big to kill.

    Then there is that matter of even if it worked, what the other problems could be.

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