The Land Forces Pacific (LANPAC) Symposium & Exhibition drew more than 1,700 military personnel, academics, and security and defense professionals to Honolulu, Hawaii, in mid-May 2023. The event, in its 10th year, highlights the role of land forces throughout the Indo-Pacific.
Participants and attendees included delegations from more than 25 nations, and army chiefs from Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, Mongolia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Tonga, the United Kingdom, the United States and Vanuatu.
In his opening remarks, Gen. Charles Flynn, commander of the U.S. Army Pacific, called the symposium a venue for bilateral and multilateral engagements, relationship building and idea sharing.
“Growing uncertainty in the Indo-Pacific demands and necessitates that leaders from armies — and armies — pull together and draw closer as partners in this region,” Flynn said. The LANPAC theme was “Emerging Changes to Warfare,” and Flynn added that the event fostered an opportunity to better understand technological, social and organizational changes, as well as for allies and partners to better understand one another.
“I have long stated that land power represents the very security architecture that binds this region together, and together we can — and we will — preserve a safe, stable and secure Indo-Pacific,” Flynn said.
The event is meaningful for the common ground it provides, Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., commanding general of the Philippine Army, told FORUM. “When we go back to what’s really important, it’s coming face-to-face together like this, talking and really setting aside differences — making sure that we do understand each other and that we have one objective: to deter war and have lasting peace everywhere.” (Pictured: Philippine Army Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. discusses training for future warfare at the LANPAC Symposium in Hawaii in May 2023.)
The three-day symposium included presentations and panel discussions on topics ranging from the changing face of warfare, military readiness and deterrence to observations from the war in Ukraine and the state of multilateral training in the Indo-Pacific.
“Based on the discussions that I’ve had with many of you and our partners over the past year, I would note that while the character of the challenges varies from nation to nation, the nature of our challenges is remarkably consistent,” Lt. Gen. Simon Stuart, Australia’s Chief of Army, said during his keynote presentation, “The Contemporary Challenges of Maintaining Military Readiness.”
Maj. Gen. David Neo, Singapore’s Chief of Army, highlighted his nation’s path to deterrence, including “bringing everyone to the fight” with a conscription strategy that has placed more than 1 million Singaporean men into the Armed Forces in the past 56 years. Using technology as a force multiplier helps the city-state overcome its small population and land constraints. If deterrence can work in a country as small as Singapore, he said, it can work in any country.
Brawner made the case for multilateral training, saying that preparing for war is a path to deterring war. The region is an arena for competition over resources, which requires armies to prepare for various contingencies, he said. So, too, does a security environment that gives rise to territorial disputes and anti-access, area-denial tactics that are contrary to international order and the rule of law.
“When we train together, we have that collective voice that allows us to send a message to the world that we are building each of our own capabilities and really building on that interoperability, so that if the need arises, we would be able to work together,” Brawner told FORUM. “The objective is to deter war by making sure that the world knows we are working together and that we could give that lethal punch if necessary.”
During a discussion on Russia’s war on Ukraine, panelists examined the role of data and technology in increasing the resilience of Ukrainian forces and pointed to partnerships as crucial for the fight.
“This war, it shows the value … of not institutional relationships but personal relationships,” said Jack Watling, a senior research fellow for land warfare at the Royal United Services Institute, a U.K.-based think tank. “If you want institutional relationships, you have to have people together. Forums like this are vital for that reason. It’s about individuals knowing and trusting each other.”
“There’s a Gaelic quote,” added Maj. Gen. Chris Barry, director of the British Army’s Land Warfare Centre. “‘Friends are good on the day of battle.’ That’s what this opportunity gives us.”
IMAGE CREDIT: FORUM STAFF