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Lockheed delivers next version of F-35 logistics system

Workers can be seen on the moving line and forward fuselage assembly areas for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter at Lockheed Martin Corp's factory located in Fort Worth, Texas in this October 13, 2011 handout photo provided by Lockheed Martin. REUTERS/Lockheed Martin/Randy A. Crites/Handout

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lockheed Martin Corp on Monday said it has delivered the next version of the computer-based logistics system used to support the F-35 fighter jet to the U.S. military for flight testing.

That paves the way for the system's deployment in the first quarter of 2015 to nine military bases in the United States where F-35 Lightning II training and testing is taking place.

Lockheed's Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) enables daily operations of the F-35 fleet, ranging from mission planning and flight scheduling to repairs and scheduled maintenance, as well as the tracking and ordering of parts.

The F-35 program has faced challenges in the past but is now making progress, according to U.S. officials.

Mary Ann Horter, a vice president with Lockheed's mission systems and training division which runs the ALIS program, said the company had met its deadline to deliver the next version of the ALIS system by Sept. 1.

She said the new software, called ALIS 2.0, and a portable memory device to be delivered by the end of the month will allow faster downloads of fault codes and other information from the jets, which will shorten the time required between F-35 flights.

Horter said it will now take 15 minutes to download the data from each F-35 after it returns from a flight, three times faster than the previous version of ALIS.

"ALIS development is on track and on schedule," Horter told Reuters at the annual conference of the Air Force Association outside Washington.

ALIS 2.0 will also give each country flying the radar-evading F-35 more advanced reporting features to manage their fleets and analyze data from the aircraft, Horter said.

Joe DellaVedova, spokesman for the Pentagon F-35 program office, said the new version of ALIS was now in flight testing.

Flight testing of the new ALIS software is taking place at Edwards Air Force Base in California, and Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland, Horter said.

Air Force Lieutenant General Christopher Bogdan, the Pentagon's F-35 program chief, said Lockheed was also making progress on a smaller, more portable version of ALIS, the next version to be released after ALIS 2.0.

Horter said Lockheed was on track to certify and test the portable version of ALIS in the first quarter of 2015.

She said Lockheed continued to improve and update The ALIS system, taking into account input from pilots, mechanics and the officials that coordinate F-35 logistics.

(Editing by Jonathan Oatis)