Multi-Domain Operations: Training for the Indo-Pacific Region

June 11, 2024

Given its strategic significance and unique characteristics, the Indo-Pacific region presents distinct challenges to multi-domain operations. While the adage holds that "if you've seen one geographic combatant command … you've seen one geographic combatant command," the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command stands out from other geographic regions. These differences drive challenges and opportunities for industry support to training and simulation requirements peculiar to the theater.

Distance and Time

While every geographic combatant command region is unique, the Indo-Pacific is distinct in multiple ways. The area encompasses more than fifty percent of the earth's surface, with borders from the Arctic to the Antarctic and from the Americas to Africa. It is the only geographic combatant command spanning an international date line and the only one to border every other command. At the mid-May 2024 Land Force Pacific (LANPAC) conference, the Australian Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Simon Stuart, observed, "The distances and the scale are breathtaking. Positioning is critical; if you're already there alongside partners and allies, it helps to defeat the tyranny of distance and helps us to improve tempo."

The scope and scale of multi-domain operations in this geographic region cannot be overstated. Training for MDO in this theater requires a deep appreciation for the calculus of distance and time. The "tyranny of distance" and greatly extended lines of communication are resource-intensive and will limit operational tempo. Training scenarios, simulations, and wargaming systems must ensure that the realities of the theater are accurately reflected in the distance and time required to conduct and realize the effects of MDO to teach a deep appreciation for these critical factors.


The Indo-Pacific comprises approximately eighty-three percent water and only seventeen percent land. No single land bridge exists to project ground combat power and maneuver is predominantly via maritime and air domains. Highlighting the non-contiguous geography as both key terrain and an advantage for whoever holds the terrain, the U.S. Army Pacific Commander, General Flynn, writes that "providing for the common defense is at the heart of the U.S. Army's identity-seizing, holding and defending terrain is what armies do." He further emphasizes the necessity for setting a positional denial defense now.

Physical training for ground operations, however, is limited. While the recent opening of the Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center (JPMRC) provides additional opportunities to incorporate Indo-Pacific partners and allies into regional large-scale training venues and numerous bilateral and multilateral exercises occur elsewhere throughout the region annually, maneuvering across the theater is challenging for forces designed to dominate the land domain, training, simulation systems, and capabilities will be crucial to modeling and understanding the limited land domain's interconnectedness across a wide variety of conditions, scenarios, and timing. The region's limited and restrictive training areas make a solid argument for integrating more virtual and constructive training to achieve the desired training complexity and scope outcomes.

Joint Warfighting

Land forces, notably the U.S. Army, play a crucial role in providing for the common defense in the Indo-Pacific region. Although major conflict in the Indo-Pacific region is perceived as largely an air and maritime contest, the Army's logistics, medical, and other capabilities provide theater forces reliable, robust support across the competition-crisis-conflict continuum. The forward position of air defense capabilities is also crucial to sustained coalition and joint force power projection. Defending and reinforcing ally and partner nation defense of key land terrain is vital. Where else is the imperative for joint warfighting proficiency so clear?

MDO bolsters air and sea power and enhances the effectiveness of joint solutions for contingencies and combat missions. In this context, MDO involves much more than simply power projection and sustainment. It is vital that modeling, simulations, and live/virtual/constructed training systems and capabilities include providing theater force logistics in crisis and conflict, projecting logistics and sustainment, and combat power into deeply contested regions. The opportunity exists for industry ingenuity to develop force projection, sustainment options, and capabilities via traditional and non-traditional pathways.

Interoperability with Allies and Partners

Unlike Europe and the overarching security framework provided by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Indo-Pacific region is characterized by a patchwork of alliances and partnerships. The U.S. has five separate mutual defense treaty alliances with countries in the Indo-Pacific region, and there are many other existing bilateral and multilateral agreements and cooperative frameworks. However, James Holmes, professor of strategy at the U.S. Naval War College, observed that "alliances with key nations in the Indo-Pacific provide an advantage from the onset of potential conflict—namely, that U.S. allies and partners already hold the key terrain that China covets.'" GEN Flynn furthers the argument that "…the defender holding the ground… requires staying power, which calls for joint interior lines" to establish positional advantage from which to project and sustain power in all domains.

At LANPAC 2024, Australian Army Lt. Gen. Simon Stuart, Chief of the Army, also discussed the importance of joint, multilateral, and multi-domain operations, stating, "The wars of the future are not going to be fought in one or two domains and are not going to be fought by one or two services. They will be fought across multiple domains and require a joint force to prevail on the battlefield and a combined joint force." This sentiment was reflected by other LANPAC participants, including representatives from some of the smaller island countries in the region. Republic of Fiji Military Forces Brigadier General Covunisaga emphasized the importance of having a collective voice and working together for regional peace and security.

Given this broad recognition, technology is a crucial bridge to enhance ally and partner interoperability. Simple, scalable, and sustainable training solutions available today can bridge the region's existing distance, time, technology, and language gaps. Virtual and constructive training systems and capabilities can create and enhance regional security relationships and deter adversarial actions and intentions.


The U.S. Army Mission Command Training Program's increase of multi-national warfighter exercises and simulations and the inclusion of the Army service component command headquarters as higher control for the corps, division, and brigade staff better enable MDO across echelons in training. U.S. Army Pacific's Operation Pathways series of more than 40 annual regional exercises with allies and partners offers a robust engagement framework for live training.

However, time, distance, and interoperability remain profound challenges to developing highly proficient multi-national warfighting capabilities in the Indo-Pacific theater. With the very robust live training venues both in theater and based in the United States, there remains a tremendous opportunity to increase and "layer" virtual and constructive training to expand regional security partnerships significantly.

As a critical stakeholder, the defense industry is best positioned to provide training and simulation frameworks and scalable solutions that are rapidly deployable and easily adaptable for non-treaty partners' use across the theater. Suppose widespread conflict breaks out in the Indo-Pacific region. In that case, countries that may desire to remain neutral might not be afforded the luxury of choice, and having a framework by which they can rapidly join, train, and integrate for security operations will be crucial.

As we look forward to TSIS, collaboration between the military and defense industry is foundational to accelerating the integration of MDO concepts into training programs. The sector's imperative – and opportunity – is clear; training for MDO in the Indo-Pacific theater has distinct challenges that industry is well-positioned to solve and arm the Defense Department as well as U.S. allies and partners with the tools, technologies, and capabilities to succeed.

Carl Priechenfried is a retired USMC Ground Colonel and career Intelligence Officer with extensive experience in amphibious operations, strategic and operational planning, and special operations. His last role was as the Intelligence Director / G-2 at Marine Forces, Special Operations Command (MARSOC), overseeing the command's intelligence capabilities portfolio. He previously served as the MARSOC Director for Training & Education, Exercise, and Modeling & Simulations Programs / G-7; Marine Air Wing Intelligence Director / G-2; Joint Enabling Capabilities Command Senior Planning Team Lead & USMC Service Element Leader; and USMC Intelligence Battalion Commander. Carl combines deep knowledge of defense intelligence with extensive operational planning experience to arm industry leaders and product developers with strategic insights regarding training, modeling, and simulation requirements.

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