C4iSR: Air

AFA Winter 2019: US Air Force bets on better software development improving aircraft acquisition

05 March 2019

USAF leadership is betting that improved software development can reduce sustainment costs on the F-35A. Source: USAF

Key Points

  • The US Air Force hopes better software development will improve the speed of acquisition
  • One software programme, ALIS, has contributed to high F-35 sustainment costs

US Air Force (USAF) leadership is betting that better software development practices will help improve aircraft acquisition.

The service, in the last year, has stood up two major efforts to improve software development: Kessel Run and Mad Hatter. Kessel Run is a team of 24 military and civilian industry software developers and engineers located in Boston that is building the next generation of combat software, according to a USAF statement.

The Mad Hatter project was established by the Kessel Run team at the behest of USAF acquisition chief Will Roper to help fix the problematic Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) on the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).

Roper said on 28 February that Mad Hatter is trying to pull apart and productise the ALIS source code and deliver incremental updates on an eventual monthly basis, rather than on a yearly or biannual basis. This, he said, is the concept of agile software development: operators and users working together and delivering code on a monthly basis and not letting errors accumulate over time. He added that Mad Hatter is a joint USAF, F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO), and Lockheed Martin team.

USAF Secretary Heather Wilson said on 28 February that, next month, F-35 maintainers will have two software solutions to work with thanks to Mad Hatter. One programme, called Titan, helps crews track fleet status. The other, Kronos, will automatically manage maintenance schedules, a task that used to be manual.

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