ALIS and other automated logistics systems

Cockpit, radar, helmet-mounted display, and other avionics
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Unread post09 Mar 2019, 02:14

Key piece of F-35 logistics system unusable by US Air Force students, instructor pilots [LONG: BEST READ @ URL]
08 Mar 2019 Valerie Insinna

"EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — The F-35 fighter jet’s logistics backbone has proven so clunky and burdensome to work with that the U.S. Air Force’s instructor pilots, as well as students learning to fly the aircraft, have stopped using the system, Defense News has learned. The Autonomic Logistics Information System, built by F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin, was supposed to consolidate training, maintenance and supply chain management functions into a single entity, making it easier for users to input data and oversee the jet’s health and history throughout its life span.

ALIS has been a disappointment to maintainers in the field, with updates coming behind schedule and many workarounds needed so it functions as designed. But the Air Force’s F-35A instructor and student pilots at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, and Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, were so disappointed with the performance of ALIS’ training system that they bailed entirely, confirmed Col. Paul Moga, commander of Eglin’s 33rd Fighter Squadron.

“The functionality in ALIS with regards to TMS — the training management system — was such a source of frustration and a time waste to the instructor pilots and the simulator instructors and the academic instructors that we at [Air Education and Training Command] in coordination with us [at Eglin] and Luke made a call almost a year ago to stop using the program,” Moga said during a Feb. 26 interview....

...Tech. Sgt. Joshua Wells is an ALIS expediter for the 33rd Fighter Squadron. One of two people in the squadron with that title, his entire job revolves around helping maintainers and support personnel use ALIS, and ironing out problems with the system that might occur throughout the day.

Wells takes a pragmatic view on ALIS’ performance. He calls it “a great tool for researching prior maintenance as opposed to digging through hundreds of thousands of pages” of documentation, and said the latest software update in January has led to some positive changes.

The speed of the servers is improving, but only so many ALIS users can use the system simultaneously. At a certain point, a user may have to wait for someone to log off before moving forward, he said.

Certain parts on the aircraft have a time limit at which scheduled maintenance or a replacement must take place. The latest ALIS update has sped up the time taken to process that data, “but we still have hiccups,” Wells acknowledged.

Users also continue to see challenges with gaps in the technical data that follows each part or subsystem, like the ejection seat. A 2018 report by the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation noted that Lockheed’s subcontractors on the F-35 do not always input information into ALIS in a standardized way, as they do not use the system. The Air Force has specifically said this problem can cause missed sorties and is one of the top five drivers of non-mission-capable rates.

“They are way better than where they were,” Wells said of the data gaps, adding that he has to call Lockheed Martin personnel “significantly less” for help getting data than he used to with older versions of the system.

While the Defense Department hasn’t spelled out a cohesive plan for ALIS’ future, there are signs the system could change in significant, fundamental ways in the coming years. Naval Air Systems Command, which manages F-35 contracts across the department, put out a solicitation in January for “ALIS Next,” which it envisions as a Lockheed Martin product that “will re-design ALIS in accordance with current information technology and software development best practices.”

The Air Force is beginning to look at that problem through its Mad Hatter effort, which pairs coders from its Kessel Run software lab with F-35 maintainers at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

Currently, Mad Hatter’s developers are building apps that will — hopefully — help to make ALIS more efficient and user-friendly, such as an app to expedite the creation of maintenance schedules. Users at Nellis will then test that app and provide feedback, shaping it into something customized to their needs.

But perhaps even more importantly, the Mad Hatter project has begun the process of hosting ALIS on the cloud, which will allow developers to “triage” code so that what is good and usable is separated from bad code that needs to be reworked, said Will Roper, the Air Force’s top acquisition official.

“There is good code there, but it’s good code in a fairly bad user interface and a bad architecture — bad in the sense that it’s 1990s technology and we’re in 2019,” he told Defense News in February.

“As they go through the code, think of it as apps in a smartphone, knowing that it’s an old phone that needs to improve. So we’re eventually going to ditch the ’90s flip phone, re-host on a modern smartphone, and we want to know what apps are pretty good to use, what apps can be used in part with reuse, and what things we need to recode,” he said. “It’s early, but so far a lot of the code appears reusable down at the app level.”

Despite all the problems, Wells is hopeful that the system will continue to improve. When this reporter asked if ALIS’ problems were just growing pains, he gave a resigned laugh. “Long growing pains, but yes,” he said."

Source: https://www.defensenews.com/air/2019/03 ... or-pilots/
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Unread post09 Mar 2019, 02:40

How the US Air Force’s Kessel Run team plans to solve one of the F-35 program’s biggest headaches
27 Feb 2019 Valerie Insinna [ANOTHER LONG ARTICLE BEST READ at URL - Valerie is going to milk this ALIS story...]

"WASHINGTON — Setting the weekly flying and maintenance schedule for an F-35 squadron is a weeklong process. It takes hours for multiple people to download data from the jets and comb through it, paste information into different spreadsheets, and continuously update each system.

With a new app called Kronos, on track to be delivered in early March, the U.S. Air Force is hoping it can trim the amount of time for that process to 15 minutes. Kronos was developed by the Air Force’s Kessel Run software development team as part of a new effort called Mad Hatter, which was established late last year to solve pilot and maintainer gripes with the F-35 fighter jet.

If all goes well, it could lead to a much bigger overhaul of the F-35’s troubled logistics backbone, known as the Autonomic Logistics Information System, or ALIS, said Will Roper, the Air Force’s top acquisition official. “There are many things about ALIS that are very frustrating and time consuming,” Roper told Defense News on Feb. 12 in an exclusive interview. “The goal [of Mad Hatter] is not simply to fix ALIS within the constraints that define it. It is to make the operator — the maintainer — more efficient, to make their user experience more pleasant.”

To build Kronos, the Air Force is relying on a team of developers from Kessel Run; Lockheed Martin, which manufactures the F-35 and ALIS; and Pivotal Software, Inc., which has created software and data analytics applications for the Air Force over the past several years. Those coders are also working with a specialized group of maintainers from Nellis Air Force Base — called the Blended Operational Lightning Technician team or BOLT — who have helped shape the product, will test it and then return feedback to the Mad Hatter team once the first iteration of Kronos has been delivered, Roper said….

...Two other applications will follow closely on the heels of Kronos. Titan will help expeditors determine fleet status, assigning tasks between maintenance teams as the workflow changes. Meanwhile, Athena is built for squadron leadership and will help section chiefs ensure maintainers are trained and performing work to build competency. “We’ll start with the BOLT [aircraft maintenance group] at Nellis — they’re going to be acting as a guinea pig or a petri dish for this code,” Roper said.

“If it works well, then there’s an option for the Air Force and the Navy to move that beyond Nellis and to deploy elsewhere,” he said. “There’s nothing about this tool that is peculiar to F-35s, so we’re thinking beyond just F-35s. Maybe F-22s can be run this way. Maybe even fourth-gen systems.”

And once Mad Hatter has a chance to prove itself with its initial apps, it may move onto a more substantial task: creating an experimental, cloud-based version of ALIS, and then helping build future software drops. The team has begun the process of re-hosting the latest iteration of ALIS, version 3.0.1.2, on Pivotal’s cloud foundry, Roper said.

“That allows you to start breaking the code up into modules and triaging parts of the code that we think can be used as they are, or parts of the code that can be used with modification, or parts of the code that we need to change to make compatible with cloud,” he said. “It also allows us to use cloud development tools, which is a big deal.”...

...So how did a system designed to streamline maintenance processes become such a burden?

ALIS is a proprietary system built to Defense Department standards that existed before the existence of concepts like cloud computing and DevOpps software. In order for the ALIS infrastructure to improve, it may need to move to modern, cloud-based tools, Roper said.

“There is good code there, but it’s good code in a fairly bad user interface and a bad architecture — bad in the sense that it’s 1990s technology and we’re in 2019,” he said. “As they go through the code, think of it as apps in a smartphone, knowing that it’s an old phone that needs to improve. So we’re eventually going to ditch the ’90s flip phone, re-host on a modern smartphone, and we want to know what apps are pretty good to use, what apps can be used in part with reuse, and what things we need to recode,” he said. “It’s early, but so far a lot of the code appears reusable down at the app level.”

Fixing ALIS and moving the F-35 to a more agile software development approach is a stated goal for both Lockheed and the F-35 Joint Program Office. How exactly that happens is not set in stone. While the Mad Hatter effort kicked off in October, teams have only been coding since January. Before that, Lockheed and the Air Force sat at the negotiating table, solidifying how much reach the government would have into ALIS and what data it would own....

...In January, Naval Air Systems Command, which manages F-35 contracts, posted a notice stating its intent to sole-source a contract to Lockheed for “ALIS Next.” That effort “will re-design ALIS in accordance with current information technology and software development best practices,” the solicitation said...."

Source: https://www.defensenews.com/air/2019/02 ... headaches/
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Unread post09 Mar 2019, 03:57

I'm surprised this wasn't addressed earlier in the program. The AF had been touting that Mx personnel were involved in the design process.
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Unread post20 Mar 2019, 23:33

Ouch

One F-35 repair depot found 68 percent of parts marked for repair did not need fixing.


https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/p ... on-809465/

I bet most of that is due to lack of ALIS maturity.

Does anyone remember where this came from originally?
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Unread post21 Mar 2019, 01:30

SpudmanWP wrote:Ouch

One F-35 repair depot found 68 percent of parts marked for repair did not need fixing.


https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/p ... on-809465/

I bet most of that is due to lack of ALIS maturity.

Does anyone remember where this came from originally?

68% sounds about right to me, actually. That means almost a third did need replacement, and you have to figure in that there would be a statistical chance of any of those outright failing in flight.
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Unread post21 Mar 2019, 01:57

count_to_10 wrote:
SpudmanWP wrote:
One F-35 repair depot found 68 percent of parts marked for repair did not need fixing.


https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/p ... on-809465/

I bet most of that is due to lack of ALIS maturity.

Does anyone remember where this came from originally?

68% sounds about right to me, actually. That means almost a third did need replacement, and you have to figure in that there would be a statistical chance of any of those outright failing in flight.


Another possible explanation is the plane is broke, and the maintainer shotguns it and replaces a bunch of parts or an entire subsystem without drilling down. All the parts or the entire system is marked as needing repair, but it turns out only 1/3 did.

Not sure if that is an indictment of ALIS, or maintenance practices or what. For all I know, 1/3 is a decent percentage. It's far better than, say, only 1 in 10 parts were actually in need of repair. Would be nice to hear the opinions of a wrench bender, logistician, and maintenance engineer on the matter.
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Unread post21 Mar 2019, 02:53

“Another possible explanation is the plane is broke, and the maintainer shotguns it and replaces a bunch of parts or an entire subsystem without drilling down. All the parts or the entire system is marked as needing repair, but it turns out only 1/3 did.”

Though not outside of the realm of the possible, that would be an extreme that is inconsistent with sound maintenance practice. ALIS is the default blame sponge, but the reality is that troubleshooting is/remains an art form. Fault detection and isolation on F-35 is more nuanced than legacy, and old experience is both an asset and a liability as a consequence. There is a learning curve on the way to ‘jet whisperer.’
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Unread post21 Mar 2019, 05:01

SpudmanWP wrote:
One F-35 repair depot found 68 percent of parts marked for repair did not need fixing.


Does anyone remember where this came from originally?


It appears on page 17 of this October 2017 GAO report:

https://www.gao.gov/assets/690/687982.pdf
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Unread post05 Apr 2019, 01:53

No WONDER users of ALIS have troubles - they are using ALIAS!
US Air Force practices Lockheed Martin F-35A hot crew swap
03 Apr 2019 Garrett Reim

"... In many situations, ALIAS makes maintainers’ work more difficult, said the Office of Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) in a January report...." [poofread, profred, proofread]

Source: https://www.flightglobal.com/news/artic ... re-457220/
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Unread post04 May 2019, 18:48

Pentagon Needs Hill Help With Software Fixes, Including On F-35
03 May 2019 Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.

"Acquisition chief Ellen Lord wants a radically new way of buying software, but appropriators have to approve.

PENTAGON: Congress has to change the law so the Pentagon can fix its broken process for acquiring software, Ellen Lord said today. It would allow her to launch multiple pilot projects next year. One of those pilots would be used to overhaul the F-35 fighter’s notoriously troubled maintenance system, ALIS....

Fixing The F-35?
“Software is different from hardware (and not all software is the same),” the report warns. That means the Pentagon needs not only a separate process for acquiring software differently from hardware, but also needs the flexibility to acquire different kinds of software different. Even on a single program like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, for example, the code actually embedded in the aircraft, controlling highly classified sensors and weapons, requires a different approach from the mission and threat profiles, which require a different approach from the maintenance and spare parts database.

The F-35’s maintenance and spares software — Lockheed Martin‘s Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) — has been an unshakeable albatross around the program’s neck for years. Rather than simplifying ground crews’ jobs, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson has said, ALIS requires them to spend an extra 10 to 15 hours a week finding ways to work around it. The Air Force has unleashed its elite Kessel Run team of in-house coders to fix Lockheed Martin’s mess, but that’s a stopgap.

In the longer run, Lord — who oversees all defense acquisition, not just the Air Force — wants to make the F-35, and particularly ALIS, the subject of one of her first software acquisition pilots next year. While the main application of ALIS is for sustainment, Lord said today, “it has tentacles back into development and operations,” making it a good candidate for the new approach."

Source: https://breakingdefense.com/2019/05/pen ... g-on-f-35/
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Unread post11 May 2019, 22:07

Mad Hatter Begins Delivering Apps to F-35 Flightline
10 May 2019 Rachel S. Cohen​

"Mad Hatter, the Air Force-led software coding effort tackling the F-35’s troubled Autonomic Logistics Information System, delivered its initial applications to the flightline at Nellis AFB, Nev., last week, a service official said May 9.

The first two applications that we fielded don’t interact with ALIS,” Steve Wert, the Air Force’s digital program executive officer, said at a National Defense Industrial Association conference. “They are separate applications that help the maintainers do things that they were doing outside of ALIS anyway. They were using Excel spreadsheets and handwritten notes and then having to re-enter those things. … They were pain points.”

Future applications will work directly with ALIS itself, Wert said. The Air Force’s Kessel Run coding team is collaborating on Mad Hatter with fighter jet manufacturer Lockheed Martin, the F-35 Joint Program Office, and Silicon Valley-based Pivotal, which helps the Air Force learn agile software development...." [a few more paras at jump]

Source: http://www.airforcemag.com/Features/Pag ... tline.aspx
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Unread post15 May 2019, 09:52

Hanscom AFB software teams decode F-35 maintenance
14 May 2019 Benjamin Newell, 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

"HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. (AFNS) -- Software teams from Hanscom Air Force Base are fielding applications that help aircraft maintainers at Nellis AFB, Nevada, plan for successful operational testing of the Air Force’s newest fighter, the F-35 Lightning II.

Hanscom AFB’s software teams travel to Nellis AFB to work with customers in the 57th Wing’s Bolt Aircraft Maintenance Unit. Bolt AMU maintains six F-35 operational testing aircraft. The 57th AMU’s maintainers serve as beta testers for programmers and designers who custom-build applications Air Force flight line mechanics use daily.

Maintainers work with the Autonomous Logistics Information System, or ALIS, to track scheduled and unscheduled maintenance issues on specific aircraft and fleet-wide. Hanscom AFB used ALIS (pronounced Alice) as the inspiration for their effort, Mad Hatter, in reference to Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”

“We’re not necessarily focused on changing ALIS,” said Lt. Col. Aaron Capizzi, Mad Hatter lead. “We’re here to deliver software our Airmen love and help them spend the most amount of time on the flight line, physically fixing the aircraft. We want to provide applications that enable our maintainers to keep the aircraft they have mission-capable.”...

...One of the F-35’s inherent advantages is its ability to self-diagnose and tell maintainers when certain systems need to be inspected, repaired or replaced. Modern auto mechanics reach for a digital interrogator that they plug into a car’s dash, or under the hood, before they ever grab a wrench. F-35 maintainers use similar tools to keep their jets flying, but PEO Digital software experts found they relied on more antiquated processes to augment or replace existing F-35 software.

“When we did initial discovery, we found that a lot of Airmen had augmented maintenance software with spreadsheets and printed schedules to track and plan maintenance,” said Capt. Brian Humphreys, an aircraft maintenance officer who is participating in career broadening as a program manager for the F-35 software design effort. “There’s all this great data the aircraft can give you, but since the existing system didn’t allow maintainers easy access to the data, we needed to build applications maintainers could use to access it.”

The PEO Digital software teams did what agile software developers always do when they encounter a large, complicated system. They isolate it into smaller, modular components that small teams can handle.

Their first success came just last week, in the form of two applications - Kronos and Titan. Kronos serves as an interactive scheduler that maintenance supervisors can use to create short and long-term plans for flight line maintenance. Kronos digitized the Airmen’s maintenance tracking process, eliminating repetitive data entry tasks and helping plan future maintenance by providing calendars that respond to simple inputs. Titan is an application helping to track an aircraft’s health, ensuring every Airman can see and understand an aircraft’s readiness status in a single glance.

Mad Hatter saw a similar opportunity with tracking another vital piece of aircraft maintenance: Airmen themselves.

“When a maintenance supervisor is designing a shift schedule, he doesn’t actually care that much about ranks on each shift,” said David Zemsky, a product designer who came on board during a special one-day hiring event, run by Mad Hatter’s parent unit, Detachment 12. “He cares about the levels of certification each Airman has, and tracking that can be extremely complex.”

Zemsky plied his trade as a user-design expert only three days after joining Detachment 12, also known as Kessel Run. He is working on another application called Athena. This mythologically-inspired application enables certification tracking in maintenance units by asking supervisors to add their Airmen’s certification statuses digitally, feeding into a more complete assignment process.

Putting enough people on duty to tackle every problem that rolls into the hangar is a crucial step for any maintenance unit. Athena could make that a nearly frictionless process.

Another team, Monocle, led by Maj. Jennifer Kannegaard, project manager, is in initial discovery phases for an application that could one day provide technical orders, or TOs, to maintainers in a user-friendly way. Maintainers need TOs any time they touch an aircraft, but the current process for distributing TOs is wasteful and time-intensive and TO viewers are clunky at best.

Each Mad Hatter team has found success by maintaining tight ties with the 57th Wing aircraft maintainers in order to meet customer needs and ensure their final application contributes directly to aircraft readiness.

Kronos and Titan are already helping one Nellis AFB unit, and the Mad Hatter team is eyeing the next step in the Agile development process. Capizzi and the Mad Hatter team of 70 government-led personnel are laying groundwork to scale their work for use in more F-35 maintenance units, possibly to include sister services’ and allied F-35 variants."

Source: https://www.af.mil/News/Article-Display ... intenance/
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Unread post15 May 2019, 11:42

I hope they utilize AI to smarten up fleet maintenance. AI doesn't think so well as it can take a heap of information and find trends with complex relationships.
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Unread post28 Jun 2019, 09:56

F-35 Updates
27 Jun 2019 Marcus Weisgerber

"...Next-gen ALIS.
Formally called the Autonomic Logistics Information System, it manages every F-35 around the world and the plane’s parts. So, it’s kind of a big deal. Like the F-35 itself, ALIS has had its development problems over the years.

The system was designed before modern smartphones and touchscreens were ubiquitous. Lockheed and Air Force engineers are now working to make ALIS more like the devices the airmen using it are more familiar with.

First, this means getting ALIS into the cloud, Ulmer said. Right now, it exists on laptops and computers. If there’s a software update, each machine must be individually updated.

Then there’s the interface. ALIS has “pull-down menu upon pull-down menu,” Ulmer said. “Literally, it’s eight clicks to take a weapon and load it.” An Air Force effort known as Mad Hatter are working to make it more automated using drag-and-drop technology. That is supposed to hit the streets in the “next couple of years,” Ulmer said...."

Source: https://www.defenseone.com/business/201 ... 19/158054/
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Unread post28 Jun 2019, 10:15

Getting ALIS to the cloud and having modern GUI will likely help a lot. It definitely shows how technology (including software) advances fast and how it must be taken into account during the very long development timelines of complex military equipment. Next they must give wireless VR/AR goggles to maintainers, so they will not need to use laptops etc. while doing maintenance.
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