The F-35B Joint Strike Fighter has passed a test of its combat performance capability but reports are that the Pentagon relaxed the standard it had to meet. As a result, some beginning to wonder if this cheating?
According to Inside Defense, the fighter had not met some of the initial requirements, so a committee decided to relax some of the key performance parameters on the fighter being developed by contractor Lockheed Martin:
Pentagon sources said a memorandum codifying the [Joint Requirements Oversight Council] (JROC) decisions has not yet been signed by Adm. James Winnefeld, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the JROC chair.
Sources familiar with the changes, however, said the JROC -- which also includes the service vice chiefs of staff -- agreed to adjust the "ground rules and assumptions" underlying the F-35A's 590-nautical-mile, combat-radius KPP.
Last April, the Pentagon reported to Congress in a selected acquisition report that "based on updated estimate of engine bleed," the F-35A would have a combat radius of 584 nautical miles, below its threshold -- set in 2002 -- of 590 nautical miles.
To extend the F-35A's combat radius, the JROC agreed to a less-demanding flight profile that assumes near-ideal cruise altitude and airspeed, factors that permit more efficient fuel consumption. This would allow the estimate to be extended to 613 nautical miles, according to sources familiar with the revised requirement.
Wired likens the allowance for a larger combat radius and takeoff distance to helping the fighter "cheat on its midterms." Wired notes that it is not uncommon for adjustments such as this to be made when a weapon is being developed, but says that it thinks in this case the loosening of the requirements is "so the over-weight, over-budget, long-delayed stealth fighter could avoid yet another embarrassing scandal."
Inside Defense reports that the JROC review in February was part of a requirement in itself to reassess the requirements of all programs whose cost is on its way to exceeding the original baseline by 25 percent or more. Adjusting requirements to lessen cost and keep things on schedule is a consideration in this review.
The F-35B has met all of the requirements set before it, according to a Lockheed Martin representative, but Wired is quick to note that "it’s easy to ace a test when the teacher’s already decided you passed."