Q. I want to start off on the Lockheed announcement that the US Navy operationally certified the Aegis Ashore missile defense site in Romania. This comes as construction is commencing in Poland as well. Can you talk to me a little about the international opportunities for that program?
A. Absolutely. The US Navy did just certify our capability in Romania which is the completion of the second phase of providing ballistic missile defense not only for our deployed forces but for our allies in Europe. This is a very important milestone; it has been exciting time for everyone involved. This program really initiated just three years ago and already has been able to go operational, which for this kind of complexity is really unheard of and really impactful. As far as other opportunities, we did the groundbreaking for Poland also last week and any other sites will be at the discretion of the Missile Defense Agency and the US Navy.
Q. There is a lot of touting a kind of modular approach; I feel like Lockheed has spoken about this under a number of its programs, in fact, even the littoral combat ship. Can you talk to me about that approach? Is it something thematically that you're seeing across the US defense industry and internationally?
A. This is driven primarily by two forces, the first one being technology moving so quickly, whether it's in the defense industry or technologies we want to leverage from the commercial industry, and the threat, [which is] also evolving at a high rate. The trick is to try to get a match between those two so we can get to our war fighters for the US and our allies capability as quickly as possible. To do that you need to have very modular systems, systems where you can plug and play capabilities and ideally use those capabilities across multiple platforms. Aegis capability on a LCS, on a ground station now with Aegis Ashore, you couldn't do that if we weren't building architectures that were open and enabled us to bring capabilities back and forth among systems. You are seeing this is a theme across Lockheed Martin on our programs, primarily because those two forces are present pretty much in any of our markets and in the systems we're bringing our customer — high-technology rate and threats that are evolving and our need to be able to match them in a cost-effective way.
Q. I do want to talk a bit about the F-35. The Air Force is preparing to declare the F-35A operational. But the biggest risk in terms of deadlines is relating to the ALIS system [Autonomic Logistics Information System] which could delay things up to 60 days. Can you talk to me a little bit about where that stands?
A. The ALIS system is basically the backbone of the management system for all of the F-35 operations. Today any F-35 flight, and there are probably anywhere from 60 to 80 in the US across the bases every day, is managed, fielded and flown using the ALIS system. The ALIS system was always planned to be deployed incrementally, maturing over time, and that's what we're seeing here today. We are working on the next version of the ALIS capability, it's called 2.0.2, and it is the version that is next to be released. The Air Force has said that an ALIS capability of a certain maturity is what they'll need for their operational capability, much like the Marine Corps did prior, and we're working to make sure that we deliver between the August to December timeframe, which is the window that they've given for IOC declaration, the capability they need. We're laser-focused on that; we're committed to making that happen.
Q. Maintainers and technicians do love the system — we actually had one of our reporters go and visit and speak to them about it. But this of course brings up questions relating to cybersecurity — keeping the data secure in that system. Can you update us on that challenge?
A. Any information system that's carrying sensitive information for the US or our allies needs to be protected and ALIS is no different. The ALIS system has been through significant amounts of testing and certification using just about every government agency in the US that we could tap, ourselves in the joint program office, to make sure that we could come in and verify and certify that the system is safe for every environment it operates. And in fact we've had over 2,000 security tests on it over its life and just last year 300 alone. So we've taken this very seriously. We need to ensure that wherever it performs, in that environment, it is going to be safe and make sure that they'll be no vulnerabilities. In addition to that we have an infrastructure in place that enables the actual ALIS system to perform and we need to continue to make it more robust, have backup plans, ensure that it can be maintained and reliable literally anywhere on the planet. It's going well, the troops have deployed several times and been able to operate ALIS wherever they were, but we'll keep on it.
Jill Aitoro is editor of Defense News. She is also executive editor of Sightline Media's Business-to-Government group, including Defense News, C4ISRNET, Federal Times and Fifth Domain. She brings over 15 years’ experience in editing and reporting on defense and federal programs, policy, procurement, and technology.