Interesting report out of InsideDefense.com (free version) says Pentagon officials have relaxed the ground rules the F-35A model, the conventional-takeoff-and-landing version of the Joint Strike Fighter, can meet the minimum range goal for the aircraft -- the minimum, not the desired range.
On Feb. 14, the Joint Requirements Oversight Council -- in a previously unreported development -- agreed to loosen select key performance parameters (KPPs) for the JSF during a review of the program convened in advance of a high-level Feb. 21 Defense Acquisition Board meeting last month, at which the Pentagon aimed to reset many dimensions of the program, including cost and schedule.
Pentagon sources said a memorandum codifying the 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. (Editors note: The desired or "objective" range was 690 nm).
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.
Also, officials agreed to lengthen the minimum short takeoff distance for the F-35B, even though that model already will carry a smaller weapons load than initially planned.