Friday, April 22, 2016

Will the "Blue Screen of Death" Ground the JSF?

X-35C in formation with F/A-18D
en route to the Patuxent Naval Air Station
Yet another problem with the F-35 Lightning may ground the entire fleet

It seem like only this week that we were talking about the F-35 Lightning’s radar system needing to be periodically rebooted like a Windows 95 desktop. (Wait… it was just this week.) But right on the heels of that news, another story has emerged and not only isn’t the picture getting any prettier, this one could wind up grounding every new Joint Strike Fighter in the entire program until they can get the software figured out. (Daily Mail)
Now, a new report says problems with its logistics software system could ground the entire fleet.
The problem is with what the Department of Defense officials call the ‘brains’ of plane, also known as the Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS).
It is designed to support operations, mission planning and to spot any maintenance issues with the vehicle…
A Government Accountability Office report says a failure ‘could take the entire fleet offline’ because there is no backup system.
There’s no need to go into the weeds on the function of the ALIS systems here, though you can read quite a bit about it at the linked report. Suffice it to say that the program monitors many vital functions of the plane’s operation and maintenance. The good news is that if it goes kaput during a mission the plane won’t immediately go up in flames or fall out of the sky, but it also won’t pass certification to get up in the air in the first place. Unfortunately, the system isn’t run locally (as in onboard the aircraft) but from ground control. There is no onboard backup for the system either, so if it loses the thread to home base and the link can’t be reestablished, it’s pretty much down for the count.
A friend of mine who works on the F-35 (previously called the Joint Strike Fighter, or JSF for short) called it "Just Science Fiction", and predicted that it would never fly in combat in his career. He may even be the one to pull the plug on the Navy's version. He's getting ready to retire, and may well be right. 

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