388th OSS enhancing combat capability by taking on F-35A software

  • Published
  • By Micah Garbarino
  • 388th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- Communications Airmen in the 388th Operations Support Squadron recently completed a combat training exercise successfully testing the first all-military support for the F-35A Lightning II’s Autonomic Logistics Information System.

Currently, ALIS administration is done by contract support, which was designed into the F-35 program from the beginning. However, there was also an expectation that the Air Force would perform that work in the future, becoming more rapidly-deployable and agile in the process. The recent exercise was one of the first tangible steps in that direction.

In the 388th Fighter Wing, the job of creating the first Air Force ALIS admin team belongs to the 388th OSS, and they are doing everything they can to push that program forward, both at Hill, and across the entire Air Force F-35 enterprise.

“We always knew that contract support needed to sunset, but there was never a plan for that until we initiated it here,” said Lt. Col. Maxwell Cover, 388th OSS commander. “We’re past the crawl phase, we’re in the walk phase right now.”

Why is ALIS so important? If the A-10 was designed around its imposing 30-mm cannon, it’s fair to say that the F-35A Lightning II was designed around both its stealth and massive amounts of computing power – advanced sensors, radar, electronic warfare, helmet, customizable displays, and maintenance synergy.

All of these capabilities, and many more, give the F-35 a nearly unparalleled edge in combat, and it takes a skilled team of IT managers to administer ALIS, the digital framework that houses them all. 

Information that runs these onboard systems gets uploaded to and downloaded from the “guts of the jet” before and after each flight, Cover said. The ALIS administrators work with both the classified and unclassified servers that host the information maintainers and operators use every day to work everything from mission planning to scheduled maintenance and prognostics health management.

In order to create the Air Force’s own ALIS administrators, the 388th obtained approval and funding from Air Combat Command. They have identified their manning requirements and broken down the specialties needed in each section of the shop, Cover said.

“One of the challenges is that the Air Force doesn’t have a formalized training plan for this yet,” said 1st Lt. Corbin Meredith, 388th OSS Signal Corps OIC. “Along with the Marine Corps and the Navy, we’ve taken a look at the list of over 3,000 tasks that are required to support ALIS and we have identified formalized training plan.” 

The OSS is also working with Air Force Personnel Center to look into creating a specialty identifier within the communications career field for ALIS administrators, which would help with assignments and retention and possibly allow for incentive pay for what will be a highly-specialized skill.

“We need to be able to train these Airmen and keep them in the Air Force,” Meredith said. “Ultimately, what is driving this entire effort is greater combat capability and agility for the Air Force with the F-35A.”

EDITOR'S NOTE: ALIS is currently being utilized across the F-35 enterprise, but is being replaced by the Operational Data Integration Network (ODIN). The OSS ALIS admins will also administer the new system.