New F-35 Software Could Quell ALIS Sovereignty Concerns (excerpt)
(Source: FlightGlobal; posted Oct 27, 2016)
By Leigh Giangreco
New F-35 software could quell ALIS sovereignty concerns
27 October, 2016 BY: Leigh Giangreco Washington DC
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
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.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE: While it is good that Lockheed is beginning to acknowledge
user concerns about the ALIS system, the proposed fix – if it ever is
finalized – will only allay part of the growing unease about the ALIS
Two other and far more serious problems have not been addressed to date: one
is Lockheed’s ownership of the ALIS intellectual property, which means it
alone will be in a position to decide when, where and at what cost F-35
operators will be able to operate and maintain their aircraft.
The second is ALIS’s dependence on the Internet for communications between
user terminals and the main ALIS server in Fort Worth, Texas, which will
have absolute control over the F-35 system.
We explored the vulnerability that dependence on Internet creates for F-35
users, US and foreign alike, a year ago, in US Software Stranglehold
Threatens F-35 Foreign Operations
It now remains to be seen if this and other controversial ALIS features are
in fact modified to allay operator concerns.)