It seemed like a promising step for America’s next stealth fighter: The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter passed a key Pentagon test of its combat capability. But it turns out that the family of jets cleared the mid-February exam only because its proctor agreed to inflate its grade. In essence, the military helped the F-35 cheat on its midterms.
The collusion between the Pentagon testing body, known as the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC), and the F-35 program — first reported by Inside Defense — confirmed that the U.S.’ most expensive warplane met previously established performance criteria. Specifically, the review was meant to show that the jet can fly as far and take off as quickly as combat commanders say they need it to.
But the review council, which includes the vice chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, eased the standard flying profile of the Air Force’s F-35A model — thereby giving it a range boost of 30 miles. And it tacked an additional 50 feet onto the required takeoff distance for the Marines’ F-35B version, which Defense Secretary Leon Panetta just took off budgetary probation.