How can the United States Air Force field the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter before 2020?
It is a fair question since the one constant is program delay and cost growth.
I propose the following if the USAF is so intent on fielding a mediocrity.
1. Write up a requirement to have a HUD put in the aircraft. Not very joint, but we are talking about survival.
2. Write up a requirement that the first IOC squadron will be used for Air Sovereignty missions or ASA. Something the USAF recently renamed because they were continually embarrassed by the Government Accounting Office (GAO) on their inability to properly resources and manage home air defense.
This requirement would be for the HUD, the AIM-9X on the outside pylon and the gun. There you go. A squadron that can do home defense out of somewhere not too hot and not near very much water (where one risks dumping the aircraft when the unreliable IPP fails). Hill AFB, Utah will do.
3. Write up a requirement for another squadron (also at Hill). It will have the HUD and will only be able to drop JDAMs from the internal bays (in a F-117-like release profile).
4. Weight savings. Remove the DAS cameras and EOTs.
About all these 2 squadrons will be able to do is gather data in a permanent IOC like state for a follow-on design.
Real weight savings and any hope of reliability will not happen until USAF writes up a requirement for a D model. This aircraft will have a different motor which doesn´t suffer the 2000 pounds of dead weight from the STOVL design. The D will also need a more reliable power system to avoid IPP woes. Hint: the F-16 has some answers.
That will not fix all the woes with the USAF and the F-35 program, but it will give them what they want. An illusion of using your money for something useful; even if they are wasting it.