Vince Di Pietro AM, chief executive of Lockheed Martin Australia, describes the F-35 as an operational game changer. Behind the scenes, the fifth-generation aircraft is reshaping the maintenance and sustainment game in a major way.
As it is proving in training and operations, the F-35, by virtue of its transformational fifth-generation capabilities, is changing the battlespace.
If you were asked to describe the capabilities that define a fifth-generation platform, you might immediately think of the F-35’s unique low-observable stealth performance and its advanced sensor fusion.
While such leading-edge technologies capture the imagination, the F-35 is equally as remarkable for the corresponding quantum leap in sustainment it represents.
Because, just as the F-35 is changing the game in the air, it is also re-writing the book for maintenance, logistics, training and data analytics systems on the ground.
The building blocks of fifth-generation sustainment practices have been built into the F-35’s design from the beginning.
There are, of course, some common themes between sustaining legacy capabilities and the F-35. Ensuring repairs and logistics, for example, is critical to keeping any platform operational.
But that is about where the similarities end.
Data-enabled sustainment not only makes F-35 maintenance processes far more efficient than those of legacy aircraft but, when integrated with its supply chain, training system, predictive health information and advanced analytics, aircraft reliability and availability are also maximised.
With aircraft now arriving in Australia and the journey towards RAAF F-35 initial operational capability well underway, the immediate priority for the successful introduction of our F-35 fleet is the establishment of a sovereign sustainment capacity in and around RAAF Base Williamtown.
As the fifth-generation technology design pioneer behind the F-35, Lockheed Martin Australia is supporting the RAAF every step of the way in establishing an end-to-end sustainment solution tailored specifically for Australian conditions that will underpin every aspect of the fleet’s through-life capability.
Beyond the direct sustainment footprint being established at Williamtown, the RAAF F-35 capability is part of a multinational enterprise currently numbering more than 360 aircraft across 14 services that is constantly accumulating performance analytics for the aircraft and individual components.
At the centre of Lockheed Martin’s drive to maximise F-35 operational effectiveness for the RAAF – while ensuring that operations remain affordable over the long term – is the IT backbone known as the Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS).
Designed to capture every aspect of activities relating to aircraft use, from the performance of the air vehicle itself to the warehousing of spare parts and training of personnel, ALIS is able to distribute actionable information to pilots, maintainers and commanders within a secure network environment.
This information, in turn, helps improve the future design and sustainment of the aircraft and its capabilities. It means we can ensure the F-35s currently rolling out of our Fort Worth facility are the most advanced and operationally effective we have produced to date and that the latest advances are retrofitted to aircraft that are already in service.
Inherent in the sustainment philosophy for the F-35 are the Continuous Capability Development and Delivery Program of major capability block upgrades and other minor enhancements that will be fielded through the course of the F-35’s service life.
Lockheed Martin is uniquely placed to ensure the fusion of big data sustainment analytics and capability enhancements across a co-ordinated technology insertion program for the aircraft fleet, training system, ALIS and other support systems.
The fifth-generation F-35 is redefining not just our approach to aircraft maintenance but the fundamental concept of platform sustainment. To ensure the sustainment solution for Australia’s fleet keeps pace with capability development, we are constantly transferring knowledge to the RAAF and the growing number of local industry partners integral to the ongoing support effort at RAAF Base Williamtown.
As the F-35 capability partner to the RAAF, Lockheed Martin is fulfilling its responsibilities for the development of sustainment capacity to meet the needs of Australia’s F-35 aircraft and their transformational capabilities fleet. We will remain both integral and fully committed to the performance of that capability for the decades to come.