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​Air Combat Command boss Gen. Hawk Carlisle spoke about command and control and fusion at AFA's Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla., on March 2, 2017. Air Force photo.

​Command and control is “what will keep us ahead” as China, Russia, and other potential adversaries catch up in aerospace technology and imitate the US Air Force, Air Combat Command chief Gen. Hawk Carlisle asserted at AWS17 Thursday. The key to prevailing in future conflicts will be knowing the situation “faster, better” than an opponent, and the ability to continually assess and act inside his ability to do so. The Air Force’s Combined Air Operations Centers are the envy of the world, Carlisle said, but USAF is working to make them better, and is dedicating itself to making sure every platform feeds the “combat cloud.” In the future, “everything in the battlespace has to be an information collector and disseminator,” Carlisle said. The F-22 will be a key to that effort, although USAF hasn’t “figured out … yet” how to pass that what it collects to the rest of the force automatically, due to its stealthy communications technology.

Carlisle said C2 is really the key when USAF may not have numerical superiority, and its technology will not be generations ahead of any competitor. Observing that the US had a monopoly on stealth when the F-117 was introduced, Carlisle noted, “we’ll never have an advantage like that again.” The technology pushes, he said, will be in “autonomy and semi-autonomy” of both platforms and the means to interpret what they collect, as well as “manned and unmanned teaming” and “machine-to-machine” communications and collaboration. Unable to be specific due to secrecy, Carlisle promised “we’re truly on the edge of some big moves” in all these areas, and in connecting “all the disparate parts” of the combat enterprise.