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Training airmen for the battlespace of the future will require fusion training environments that use fifth generation capabilities of the F-35 and T-X trainer, top Air Force generals said at AW​S17 Thursday. Fusion warfare will require “agile airmen, highly trained in their primary duty,” but also ready to “synergize” across the force, said Lt. Gen. Darryl Roberson, chief of Air Education and Training Command. One way to achieve this goal is to get young airmen more time in air operations centers “to expose more airmen to the network infused environment.” This sort of experience can help “unleash that thought potential,” which Air Combat Command boss Gen. Hawk Carlisle said is the greatest advantage of the US military. The challenge is daunting, however. Roberson said the Air Force ultimately needs airmen who are “proficient at fighting in the dark with little or no technology at all.”

New capabilities will help too. Roberson singled out the F-35 and the T-X trainer. The fifth generation fighter is “a difference-maker in how we can carry out command and control and fuse all components of warfighting in future conflicts,” he said. “In these future conflicts, the fifth-generation fighter aircraft is our key to mature air superiority for the United States.” He said the F-35 operates “more like an AWACS than an individual fighter,” bringing additional command capabilities to the battlespace. And the T-X will be necessary for “bridging the technological gap between our current trainers and that fifth-generation capability.” The continued development of the T-X trainer is “central to our ability to transition, to bring in more of this networked warfare and fusion, and start training our students from the very beginning what they’re going to see when they get out and operational.”​