By Andrea Shalal
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lockheed Martin Corp said on Monday it is working to resolve "relatively minor" issues with a portable version of the F-35 fighter jet's automated logistics system, but the problems should not impede a Marine Corp milestone this summer.
Jeff Streznetcky, the Lockheed executive in charge of the logistics system known as ALIS, told Reuters the company was working closely with the Pentagon's F-35 program office to fix the software that runs the new version of ALIS. He added that the system remained on track to be deployed in late June or early July.
"I'm not expecting any showstoppers that would cause me any alarm," Streznetcky said in a telephone interview. He stressed the system would not be deployed until it was ready to meet the Marine Corps' operating requirements.
ALIS enables daily operations of the F-35 fleet, including mission planning, scheduling for flights, repairs and routine maintenance, and tracking and ordering of parts.
Lockheed is scrambling to complete a smaller, lighter version of the F-35's complex Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS), ahead of July, when the Marine Corps plans to declare an initial squadron of 10 F-35s ready for combat use.
Streznetcky declined to provide details about specific problems seen with the latest ALIS software, version 2.0.1, which has been tested since late April.
ALIS will serve as the management "backbone" for a global fleet of over 3,000 F-35s to be operated by three U.S. military services and other countries. The Pentagon expects to pay $391 billion to develop the jets and buy 2,457 jets in coming decades. ALIS is so big and costly it constitutes a major arms program on its own.
Air Force acquisition chief William LaPlante last week said ALIS was "continuing to improve" after early problems, including slow response times. He said officials were working to speed up downloads of data from the jets and iron out problems with the system's ability to load detailed mission data files.
Six U.S. Marine F-35 B-model jets, which can take off from shorter runways and land like a helicopter, are slated to begin operational testing on the USS Wasp on Monday.
The larger, earlier version of ALIS was installed on the ship ahead of the test and used to maintain the jets participating in the tests, Streznetcky said. He forecast a "seamless transition" once the jets arrived on board from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina.
ALIS systems are in now use at nine air bases and a final assembly plant in Italy, Streznetcky said.
(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)