Military services are pivoting to better operate in a what is increasingly referred to in defense and wider-government circles as the multi-domain operations (MDO) environment. MDO is distinguished from other operating constructs noted in MS&T – for instance, joint and combined operations. More significant, an MDO construct and frame of reference expands the ability of individuals, units and staffs to shape, contest and fight/operate in the expanded battlespace – across the land, sea, air, space and cyber domains. 

MDO is a reality. As this article was posted, in one instance, US Navy ships operating in the Red Sea region were on-task for concurrent missions, conducting land-attack and maritime boarding operations, and destroying the occasional UAS. 

As the US DoD conducts MDO missions, the services are striving to articulate and define these missions in their strategy and policy documents – with mixed results. To complicate matters a bit, and offering a theme for a future article, as the US military seeks to embrace MDO it must also consider integrated operations – bringing to the mission the right mix of technology, operational concepts and capabilities — all woven together and networked in a way that is credible, flexible and so formidable/overpowering that it will give any adversary pause.

While the DoD bureaucracy integrates these missions into strategy and policy, the simulation and training industry offers military training enterprises huge advancements in technologies designed to allow the services to prepare for, conduct and rehearse for these missions.


Formalizing MDO as Strategy and Doctrine

While MDO is incrementally gaining the attention of US military leaders, planners and strategists, it is Army that is outpacing the other services in embracing MDO – and its training underpinnings – as it embeds the concepts in its service doctrine and includes these missions in exercises and events. 

This February 14, Lt. Col. Christian Cook, Chief, Operational Level Doctrine Division, and Richard Creed, Director, US Army Combined Arms Doctrine Directorate at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, noted multi-domain task forces provide the joint force with a formation capable of employing long-range precision fires and other effects from multiple domains. “These formations provide joint task force commanders with a tool that helps enable Army and joint forces to penetrate and disintegrate enemy systems. The current FM 3-0 (Operations) discusses these formations in very broad terms, and we are currently writing specific doctrine for them based on lessons learned and how they are currently being employed.” And since the publication of FM 3-0, the Army has been working to incorporate MDO into doctrine, beginning with keystone field manuals. Of additional interest, the service subject matter experts, added, “Training centers seek to replicate the conditions described in doctrine through actions such as including our division headquarters in training center rotations with subordinate brigades.”

While the US services include MDO in doctrine and strategy, S&T industry suppliers are offering forward-leaning capabilities to their current and prospective defense customers to support the cycle of these tasks for individuals, units and staffs. 

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MAK ONE may prepare networked, disparate individuals, units and staffs (above) for MDO missions as requested by the defense customer. Source: MAK .

Learning Technology Enablers for MDO 

MAK has fielded one solution (MAK ONE suite of simulation software) to allow defense forces to train and rehearse for MDO. 

At the overarching level, MAK ONE provides an extensive library of capabilities allowing each entity to interact with other entities in a scenario which enables a wide variety of both kinetic and non-kinetic effects in all domains. This includes redirecting space assets and their sensor to bring space capabilities into a specific region in support of interdiction operations.  

Dan Brockway, VP of Marketing, pointed out his company’s long-standing embrace of open standards and support of its open APIs (application programming interface) has made MAK ONE accessible to third party applications which are used by industry to add specific capabilities into the MAK ONE Multi Domain Synthetic Environment. 

The company’s expanding MAK ONE global industry ecosystem by mission/system includes:    

  • Distributed Air Training: Cog Sim (Tactical Data Link for VR-Forces), RT Dynamics (EWAS);
  • JADC2: Keysight (Exata Integration with MAK ONE), Ansys (STK enabled with VR-Link); 
  • Wargaming Analytics: Cervus (HIVE for VR-Forces);
  • After Action Analysis: ST Engineering (MARS); and
  • Many, many solutions built by system integrators that have taken advantage of the flexibility of the MAK ONE applications and infrastructure tools. 

MAK’s customers around the globe are deploying MAK ONE, according to Peter Swan, Director of International Business. A short list of end-users include: Australian Army (Land Simulation Core 2.0 Tranche 1); UK Royal Air Force (Gladiator Program); Royal Canadian Air Force (Distributed Synthetic Training); and German Air Force and Navy (Distributed Simulation Training).

Of added relevance, MAK ONE will be an increasingly dynamic solution well into the near future, Jim Kogler, VP of COTS Products at the company, said.  

Much of MAK’s attention has been on populating the virtual world with “clutter and content” automatically – and with good reasons. To simulate a large battlefield, it’s essential to populate it with all the objects that would naturally exist in that space in the real world, quickly and effortlessly, according to the VP. At the same time, threats are becoming more complicated. Kogler added, “We are now starting to understand the threats that cheap drones pose, but do we understand the threats coordinated swarms of drones pose? The MAK ONE behavior system that focuses on coordinated unit behavior across any domain can be used to test out new threat models to better understand this problem.”  

The industry veteran noted that as the community’s “focus is bigger, faster, and with more automation, much of what MAK has built in the last several years helps meet these needs,” and concluded, “It’s not just the behaviors – MAK Earth terrain has expanded greatly to help users start their simulation at a planet scale.” 

MS&T Kauchak feature MDO ORCA™HUNTR Ship Classification .png's recent launch of ORCA HUNTR (above), a no-code object detection and model development tool, alongside custom-built algorithms, caters specifically to the unique needs of defense intelligence. Conceptuality, the product could support tasks throughout an MDO event -- from mission rehearsal to after-action review. Source:

Harnessing AI, Satellite Imagery and other Enablers 

In another part of the industry, is integrating forward-leaning technologies into solutions that will address the cycle of MDO tasks.   

Hannes Walter, the company’s VP for Product Management-3D Simulation Environments, first put the challenge in perspective, noting defense, intelligence, and homeland security organizations require immediate and precise geospatial intelligence across broad regions, encompassing both regional and global scales. “To meet this need, has developed cutting-edge image acquisition and processing techniques, utilizing artificial intelligence technologies at scale. These innovations support a wide array of customers in commercial, civil aviation, and government sectors worldwide.”

The subject matter expert went on to provide the compelling case to use AI and other forward-leaning technologies in the MDO sector.   

Walter said the critical need for situational awareness demands highly accurate mapping to comprehend the current state and identify significant changes in targets, situations or locations. To address this, has introduced AI-driven object detection through a no-code model development platform. “This platform enables analysts at all levels—from departmental teams to individual analysts, first responders, or military personnel—to effectively harness our technology. Our recent launch of ORCA™HUNTR, a no-code object detection and model development tool, alongside custom-built algorithms, caters specifically to the unique needs of defense intelligence.” 

An even casual glimpse of the contemporary operating environment, in particular the Ukraine-Russia war and hostilities in the Red Sea region, reveals a surge in unmanned systems operating in those battlespaces. Walter reflected on this trend and noted the emerging requirement to simulate scenarios that are multi-domain, scalable, and faster than real-time stands as a crucial advantage. “'s cloud-native, scalable simulation platform, combined with the accurate and contextualized data generated by our ORCA HUNTR tool, is designed to meet the complex demands surrounding MDO,” he added.

In another part of the company’s portfolio applicable to MDO, is SYNTH3D, a high-performance, simulation-ready, semantic replica of the entire planet, crafted for real-time visualization and simulation needs. The company further noted, this innovative product features patented procedural scene description, ensuring efficient storage and processing of “ground truth” scene attributes. It also manages and delivers semantic metadata essential for physics-based simulation. Walter added, “With SYNTH3D, users benefit from on-the-fly enrichment of geo-typical features, enhancing readability and facilitating training and simulation exercises. This solution is generated through the ORCA end-to-end pipeline, utilizing satellite imagery with a ground sample distance (GSD) of 50cm [20in] or better.” As a realistic-looking 3D base-globe, SYNTH3D is derived from Maxar Vivid satellite imagery, and processed by advanced AI techniques. It is said to be ideally suited for training scenarios across air, sea, and space domains. Moreover, the Blackshark Globe Software Toolkit enables the seamless integration of recent, high-resolution imagery and sensor data. This integration supports detailed planning and rehearsal, offering an unparalleled level of precision and realism for simulation exercises.

Mirroring MAK’s business model described earlier, blackshark .ai places significant emphasis on strong partnerships, which are crucial not only for enabling its technologies but also for penetrating specific government markets effectively. To enhance’s 3-D visualization and modeling capabilities, the company has developed the Globe plug-in for Epic Games' UNREAL ENGINE. The company noted, “This development broadens the application of our detailed 3-D global reconstructions, utilizing globally recognized data standards for geo-referenced training, simulation, and visualization purposes.” Maxar Technologies plays a pivotal role as a key partner in’s go-to-market strategy, particularly for the adoption of SYNTH3D™ within the government defense and intelligence sectors.

Walter concluded, his company’s capability for rapid SYNTH3D terrain generation has been integrated by the majority of industry-leading simulation and training solution providers. This includes well-known entities such as BISim and AMST, with additional partnerships to be announced as official customer projects are released. 


Help Industry Better Respond to the Defense Customer 

New business opportunities are emerging as military forces design and mandate MDO mission training and the support of integrated operations. Yet, companies face key impediments and barriers to be more responsive to the military customer at the early stage of this evolving market, according to one industry executive.

Ross Uhler, Director, Strategic Business Development at MAK, initially told MS&T the challenges include identifying clear individual and collective training requirements, and how these requirements will be visualized in the environment. “Working with a common vernacular can also be a challenge but can usually be established quickly.”    

The MAK executive then significantly observed MDO and integrated training requirements are not well defined for both the individual and the collective MDO community. “The training needs for traditional air, land, and sea operations are relatively well known. However, the new capabilities that need to now be integrated into MDO training exercises such as intel, cyber, and space are not well known.” The retired US Air Force officer went on to explain it is often difficult to understand the training requirements for the operators in the intel, cyber, and space domains, and added, “The challenge of clearly understanding these requirements stems from several factors. The most notable include the high classification levels of these operations and a lack of training devices for the operators of those communities.”   

Uhler said that even if the individual communities had clear training requirements for their operations, each Multi-Domain Simulation (MDS) levies additional requirements on the other communities. 

Another challenge with evolving MDO is how to best represent these effects to the training audience. Uhler concluded, kinetic effects are relatively easy to display, but what about non-kinetic effects? “The method or symbology for these types of effects need to be defined and may need to be displayed differently for each community.”   

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