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Defense Department Improves 'Ready for Issue' Rate for F-35 Parts

The Defense Department has been working to improve issues that affect the ready-for-issue rate for F-35 joint strike fighter parts, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment told Congress.

Parts for the F-35 should be accompanied by an "electronic equipment log" through the jet's Autonomic Logistics Information System, but that doesn't always happen, Ellen M. Lord said. Without this log, dubbed EEL, parts are not deemed to be ready for issue and might not be able to be installed on the aircraft.

Two military fighter aircraft fly in formation.
Fuel Duo
Two F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighters bank after receiving fuel over the Midwest, Sept. 19, 2019.
Photo By: Air Force Master Sgt. Ben Mota
VIRIN: 190919-F-FV960-1002C

"The department has taken near-term action to address key degraders of ready-for-issue or RFI rate," Lord said during testimony today before the House Oversight and Reform Committee. "But the long-term solution to the problem depends on the already underway effort to replace [the autonomic logistics information system] with a more stable, capable system."

Lord said those near-term actions have resulted in increased RFI rates at Hill Air Force Base, Utah; Luke Air Force Base, Arizona; and Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona. She said those rates have moved from about 43% in February to more than 70% in every month since April. In June, she said, the RFI rate achieved a high of 83%.

A more long-term solution to ensuring parts for the F-35 arrive with EELs will involve replacing the ALIS with a different system called the Operational Data Integrated Network, or ODIN, a government-owned product. Lord announced that system to Congress earlier this year.

A military aircraft approaches a refueling boom.
Fuel Prep
An F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighter prepares to receive fuel from a KC-135R Stratotanker at an undisclosed location, May 15, 2019.
Photo By: Air Force Senior Airman Keifer Bowes
VIRIN: 190515-F-ZD147-0031C
Four aircraft fly in formation.
Four in Formation
Two F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighters assigned to the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, fly in formation with two aircraft belonging to European partners after completing a training scenario at Los Llanos Air Base, Spain, June 10, 2019.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Evan Parker
VIRIN: 190610-N-RU672-0003C

"The department will introduce the first tranche of ODIN capability fleetwide by the end of 2021," she said. "In the interim, the department has been working to develop solutions to the legacy ALIS system to improve EEL's accuracy, tracking and transmission performance to reduce maintenance workarounds and to mitigate potential risks to the fleet."

Air Force Lt. Gen Eric T. Fick, program executive officer for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office, explained to lawmakers why a missing EEL is a problem for aircraft maintainers.

"It takes a significant effort in time for maintainers to reconstruct the part history and create a digital record for that part," he said. "This activity diverts time from scheduled maintenance, increases the probability of human error, adding cost to the program. The bottom line is, we must receive our parts on time and with all the required identification markings and electronic records."

A fighter jet flies against clouds and a deep blue sky. Condensation trails from its wing tips.
Aerial Maneuver
An F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter performs a maneuver over Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., Sept. 12, 2016.
Photo By: Air Force Senior Airman Devante Williams
VIRIN: 160912-F-EC705-074C

Of about 50,000 parts on an F-35, only about 1,000 require an EEL, the general said.

"It's a very small number of parts that actually require EELs," Fick said. "We're actively looking to reduce the number of parts that have EELs, so we reduce this problem."