USMC F-35Bs receive ODIN hardware

 The F-35 Joint Program Office announced on October 9 that the Operational Data Integrated Network (ODIN) support system has been loaded onto US Marine Corps (USMC)-operated F-35B Lightning IIs for the first time.

Personnel at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma, Arizona, completed the integration of the ODIN hardware onto F-35Bs belonging to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121 ‘Green Knights’ on September 29. Later that day, the first aircraft equipped with the new support system took to the skies, with four more flights taking place the following day.

In achieving this latest milestone, ODIN hardware was loaded onto the most recent version of the F-35’s troubled Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS). In a press release, the F-35 JPO said: “Successful operation at MCAS Yuma validates the next-generation servers as a viable successor to the ageing ALIS system and provides a significant performance upgrade to F-35 units.”

VMFA-121 F-35B [USMC/Lance Cpl Jacob A Farbo] #1
A Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II, assigned to the USMC's Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121 'Green Knights' hovers before landing at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni, Japan, on June 13, 2017. USMC/Lance Cpl Jacob A Farbo

Developed to replace the troubled ALIS platform, the ODIN support system is expected to achieve full operational capability in December 2022. ALIS gives F-35 operators the ability to manage flight operations, maintenance, training, technical data, prognostics and the supply chain for the multi-role stealth fighter.

In January 2020, a report from the US Department of Defense’s Office of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation noted that deficiencies with the ALIS platform had grown to 4,700 over a two-year period. These deficiencies included deployment challenges, inaccurate/missing data, ineffective training and an overall poor user experience.

ODIN is a cloud-native support system that incorporates a new suite of user friendly applications with a new integrated data environment to improve the F-35 fleet’s sustainment and readiness performance. It is being designed to allow software engineers to develop and deploy updates more rapidly, increase mission capability rates across all three F-35 variants and reduce the workload of administrators and maintainers.

VMFA-121 F-35B [USMC/Cpl Aaron Henson]
An F-35B Lightning II - BuNo 169168 (c/n BF-48) - assigned to the USMC's VMFA-121 'Green Knights' taxis to the runway at MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, on February 2, 2017. USMC/Cpl Aaron Henson

According to the F-35 JPO, the ODIN support system displayed significant performance improvements while running with ALIS. “Performance testing of ODIN showed a reduction in the administrative workload and significantly reduced processing times compared to fielded ALIS servers (>50% decrease) – reducing the maintainers’ workload by making system interactions quicker. The testing also demonstrated a significant reduction in the time required to configure the system for use in a new environment and transfer aircraft.”

The F-35 JPO added that “ODIN’s new hardware brings numerous improvements.” For instance, ODIN is much smaller than ALIS. “While existing ALIS servers comprise of a full person-height rack of electronics and require additional back-up power modules, the ODIN-enabled hardware fits within two transportable cases,” it added. The smaller footprint also comes with substantial weight reduction – with an ALIS server weighing more than 800lb and two ODIN modules weighing less than 70lb each.