WASHINGTON – F-35B joint strike fighters based at Yuma Air Station in Arizona have been temporarily grounded due to issues with a key support system.
The issue centers on the stealth jet's Autonomic Logistics Information System, or ALIS, The software behind ALIS is woven through the F-35, and plays a vital role in everything from planning missions to maintenance. In April, ALIS 2.0.2 was installed on F-35A models and Navy F-35C models, but was delayed in getting out to the F-35B jump-jet variants.
"Maj. Gen. Mark Wise, commanding general of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, made the decision to temporarily suspend VMFA-211 flight operations pending fixes to a recent ALIS software upgrade within version 2.0.2 that has presented some anomalies," Maj. Kurt Stahl, director of public affairs with the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, wrote in a statement. "There is nothing wrong with the performance or safety of the aircraft itself, but it is imperative that we ensure the ground-based ALIS system is working properly before flight operations continue.
Stahl said that the F-35 Joint Program Office and prime contractor Lockheed Martin have dispatched engineers to help resolve these issues associated with the update, and said the issues center around "maintenance codes not being reflected properly in the system." News of the grounding was first reported by Inside the Navy.
Critics of the F-35 will likely seize on the software issue as more proof that the famously delayed jet is of faulty design. The grounding comes just days after the U.S. Air Force began flying operations after a ground stop due for F-35A models at Luke Air Force Base. Those jets were grounded from June 9-21due to concerns about hypoxia among pilots. Since 2011, there have been 15 related hypoxia incidents for F-35A models – five of which occurred in the last month, leading to the recent grounding.
A spokesman for the U.S. Air Force said the service, which is the largest operator of the jet, said he was unaware of any software issues with the planes being flown. A spokesman for the F-35 Joint Program Office could not be reached for comment.
Jeff Schogol with Marine Corps Times contributed to this report.
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.