“Modern Day Warfighter: Ready, Lethal, Adaptable”
“We’re going to go shopping; we’re going to put gear in the hands of Marines in order to figure out if we need it. That’s turning the world upside down … we need to get Marines—junior Marines—together with industry in a conversation way earlier than we have been comfortable with in the past.”
—Lt. Gen. David Berger, Commanding General of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command (MCCDC)
Speaking at the opening ceremony for the 38th MDM Expo, three-star General Berger threw the door wide open for both close-range and leap-ahead technologies and ideas, recently enabled by significant budget increases after years of what many saw as intentional starvation under the previous presidential administration. And the Corps, with a deserved reputation as the most nimble and warfighting-focused of the U.S. Armed Forces, would shake up traditionally cumbersome acquisition processes by inviting and more seriously considering ideas from Marines of all ranks as well as businesses big and small.
Berger’s forceful commitment was energetically supported in all aspects of this annual Expeditionary Warfare extravaganza, where defense industry reps and Navy/Marine Corps program offices showed their wares and interacted with high value attendees—not just generals, Pentagon potentates and allied military shoppers, but multitudes of muddy boots Marines with plenty of combat experience.
Show, Tell, Listen
This year saw an expanded set of formal presentations, information panels, product demonstrations and “Booth Briefs” both scheduled and off-the-cuff for up-close interaction.
Perhaps most useful to potential vendors came on opening day in the form of info-packed Briefs to Industry by Marine Corps Systems Command and its components. In addition to stage-setting overviews, specific needs were identified in ground combat, logistics, support and training.
Ground Combat is our focus so we zeroed in on the presentation by Colonel Mike Manning, GCE Portfolio Manager, that led off with the very welcome news that funding has increased dramatically and is projected to move steadily upward by more than $133 million by fiscal year 2020.
On the weapons track, he’s looking for help from industry with a prioritized list including variable power day optics, binocular night vision goggles, multi-spectral imagers and rangefinders, medium machine gun modernization and a “next generation squad weapons/rifle,” a noble but seemingly endless quest.
Oh, and now that the Corps is buying 15,000 more of HK’s superlative M27 Infantry Automatic Rifles, the ongoing search for a rugged, reliable, higher capacity feed device intensifies. Maybe like MAGPUL’s compact, unstoppable 40-round PMAG M3 drum?
Now, having the new hardware is one thing, but making sure it’s used most effectively by grunts and others in the fight is daunting—particularly as everything on the battlefield gets more and more high-tech.
Colonel Lois Lara, Training Systems’ Program Manager, called for emerging technologies to enhance and improve head-mounted displays and moving past serious limitations in current laser systems being used for small arms in force-on-force training.
The follow-on Brief to Small Business was a lifeline to those offering worthy products to meet identified needs but a bit short in the “how do we let the Marine Corps know what we’ve got?”
[Author’s Note: The website for MDM Expos is among the most comprehensive and user-friendly we’ve encountered. There’s a wealth of info for exhibitors and attendees, as well as an invaluable portal for those unable to attend in person. Links are available to the actual content of the Briefs to Industry from MCSC’s Commander and Portfolio Managers. Links are also available at marcorsyscom.marines.mil. For specific solicitations and contract awards see FedBizOpps.gov or fbo.gov. Also, Defense Innovation Marketplace is a comprehensive resource: defenseinnovationmarketplace.mil.]
Some additional presentations over the expo’s three days featured the “Close Combat Lethality Task Force,” “Synthetic Training Environment” and informed speculation on the “Future Operating Environment.”
New this year were concurrent presentations in the Marine Corps University’s on-site Expeditionary Seminar Facility. Attendees sampled sessions on “Expeditionary Energy,” “Cybersecurity” and a hush-hush (closed session) explaining once and for all, “Why the North Won the Civil War ….”
Regularly scheduled “Booth Briefs” were offered by a number of exhibitors, and we hastened to observe Warfighting Laboratories’ show ‘n’ tell on the tough and versatile Marathon Robotics system. These somewhat eerie, man-sized, mobile targets move around realistically and flop over “dead” when hit. MCWFL also provided on-the-spot briefings from Center for Lessons Learned, the Technology Initiative Screening Branch and RCO’s rapid development and delivery of operational prototypes to forces in the fight.
More than 360 Exhibitors
For all three days of the expo while deadly serious information was being dispensed in the Briefing Center tent, the other giant tents and the outside displays were buzzing with activity as visitors ranging from youthful enlisted Marines to high-level military, DoD and industry potentates patrolled the aisles.
Discipline is needed to avoid being overwhelmed by the variety of offerings on display and the sheer size of many including hulking AFVs, artillery pieces, real aircraft and the like.
All are certainly compelling to others, but man-portable weaponry is our stock in trade. 2018’s lineup included weapons from prominent names like American Rheinmetall, FN, General Dynamics, Glock, HK and SIG SAUER. Some of their rivals in the firearms arena included Arbor Arms, Geissele and LaRue.
Space limitations dictate just brief notes on some of the things we encountered, so follow-up info is encouraged by visiting vendor websites as noted.
SIG SAUER MHS and more. Flushed with victory, of course, in winning the multi-service Modular Handgun competition, they showcased the M17 and M18 versions, along with a full selection of other pistols and long arms. Most all, by the way, were going to be made available for handling and shooting at the concurrent Marksmanship Tech Demo. sigsauer.com
FN 509 Tactical. Heavily advertised these days in most gun- and defense-related magazines, the versatile 509 Tactical drew a lot of admiring attention at their sprawling display that was dramatically dominated by the fuselage of a “Little Bird” helo. fnamerica.com
Barrett MRAD. Touting “Modularity Without Compromise,” this bolt-action tack driver offers six distinct cartridge options. barrett.net
AimLock R-M1. Augmenting battle-proven stabilized, remotely operated weapons stations with innovative automatic targeting technology, it features ruggedized computing and display modules with a gamer-style controller. aim-lock.com
LaRue Tactical BET. When a glitch kept away the weapons they planned for display, these tough Texans rallied to release a herd of 500 distinctive armadillo-configured “Beverage Entry Tools” branded with MDM 18 and the classic USMC logo. larue.com
SAAB Carl Gustaf. One of the bigger weapons we were drawn to was the latest M3E1/M4, tapped by the Marines to eventually arm every infantry squad with one of these devastating tank and bunker-busters. saab.com
Aimpoint FCS13RE. The Carl Gustaf and similar launch platforms get superior hit probability on static and moving targets with this Dynamic Universal Reflex Sighting super system from Sweden. aimpoint.com
Photonis Vyper 14. The AN/PVS-14, a SPECOPS favorite, now gets 40% greater range with the new 4G image intensifier tube. photonis.com
Leupold. Well-proven in combat and competition, Leupold’s Delta Point Pro is a tough, economical, high-performance red dot for pistols, shotguns and carbines. leupold.com
Excelitas Talon. Rugged and compact, this new clip-on image intensifier/uncooled thermal imaging weapon sight gives all-weather performance. excelitas.com
Optics 1 I-CUGR. The Integrated Compact Ultralight Gun-Mounted Rangefinder gives the operator the ability to range man-sized targets out to 1500 meters. optics1.com
Trijicon VCOG. This tank-tough 1-6×24 power Variable Combat Optical Gunsight boasts an LED illuminated, first focal plane BDC reticle. trijicon.com
Nice to Have
MAGPUL Bipod. Their ever-expanding line now includes a clever bipod with distinctively configured, quick-adjusting legs. magpul.com
KF Armory Defense MIB2S. Designed for easy assembly, disassembly and extreme durability, the Modular Interlocking Ballistic Barrier System’s giant super blocks defeat .50 BMG APIT projos. kfarmory.com
Meggitt Linkless Magazines. Metallic-linked 30mm ammo is too heavy and prone to feed problems, so their linkless magazines are winners for machine-cannon systems. meggitdefense.com
Quantico Tactical LRAD. Adding to their offerings by leaps and bounds, this mega gun seller has now partnered with LRAD Corp. to offer the Long Range Acoustic Devices, including the new 450XL. quanticotactical.com
American Rheinmetall. Among its many superior quality munitions, the company’s 40mm MK281 training grenade uses unique target marking technologies, giving USMC MK19 gunners realistic day and night training. americanrheinmetall.com
Arnold Defense. Long recognized for superior launch systems for area suppression with 2.75-in. rockets, the new FLETCHER uses advanced rocket guidance technology for land-based, vehicle-mounted applications. arnolddefense.com
Laser Shot. Who can resist the chance to fire machine guns and pistols right in the middle of the show floor? Countless Marines and others tried their skills on the MMTS and SimRange simulators. lasershot.com
Revision’s additions. Perhaps best known for excellent ballistic eye protection, the company’s offerings now include the Viper Helmet System, tactical power packs and communication components. revisionmilitary.com
Spyderco. This highly respected blademaker’s pro line features the new compact Para 3 folders that offer full-service cutting performance for professional end users who want versions optimized for tactical use. Available in a variety of handle colors and blade edges in stainless and matte black. spyderco.com
Small Business, Big Ideas
We always make it a point to visit the Small Business Pavilion and again found much to recommend. We needn’t say too much about Cheata Tactical’s quick entry tee shirt for nursing military moms (cheatatactical.com), but the RHTT (Robotic Human Type Target) under development by SimIS shows promise as a potential rival to Marathon’s near lock on the smart, tough, roll-around sniper target market. simisinc.com
The Corps’ Small Biz office was strategically located right there in the tent, busily dispensing advice to eager applicants. marcorsyscom.marines.mil
Battle Challenge. Gyrene gladiators flocked to the expo’s newest and most spectacular event, to strain, sweat and shoot in an exciting and fast moving “Fire and Maneuver” contest that incorporates highly relevant military skills and fitness challenges that include precision laser M4 carbine shooting, cargo net climb, rope descent, man-down rescue and more. Participants compete against each other and the clock to earn “Best of the Best!” battlechallenge.org
National Museum of the Marine Corps. It would be close to criminal negligence to come all the way to the expo yet fail to visit the Corps’ spectacular, state-of-the-art museum, just outside the main gate. usmcmuseum.com or marineheritage.org
The Navy claims ownership of the Marines, so cutting edge research and development at Office of Naval Research (ONR) deserves respect and attention in exhibits. While this super high tech command has lots of spooky projects in the works, we gun guys are most interested in things that facilitate hole-punching one way or another. Some examples are the continuing work on lightweight and caseless ammunition, leap-ahead improvements in integrated day–night optics and lots of directed energy initiatives.
Something for Everyone
Other firms and military entities offering innovative weapon sights, ammo, accessories, edged weapons, hydration, chow, extreme weather clothing, rugged gear, VR worlds, tactical tea and more, enjoy not only our attention but that of salty Marines of all ranks swarming the aisles. Word of particularly notable items and other things of interest gets around quickly, and reps are always kept busy with show-and-tell duties.
Oh, and thousands of free copies of Small Arms Review and Small Arms Defense Journal were handed out by the friendly and energetic Chipotle Publishing team. Best deal at the show.
A full listing of exhibitors, their websites and other information may be found at marinemilitaryexpos.com.
Marine Military Expos 2019
Next year’s Modern Day Marine Expo is scheduled for September 17-19, once again aboard MCB Quantico, Virginia. This is the largest of three related shows where exhibitors meet the Marines on their own turf.
Marine West Expo 2019 is slated for February 7-8 at Camp Pendleton, CA, and Marine South Expo 2019 for April 11-12 at Camp Lejeune, NC. Both are held at home installations for two of the Marine Corps’ expeditionary forces, which are continually training and dispatching fighting elements to a broad spectrum of missions around the world “in the air, on land and at sea.”
Exhibitors at the Marine Military Expos meet and exchange information, face-to-face, with not only the users of their equipment but also the men and women responsible for equipping the Corps, tasked with a broad range of existing and emerging demands.
In addition to displaying products before thousands of users, Marine Military Expo exhibitors also exchange information with their target audience, listen to their needs and gain valuable insight into what works best in a wide array of combat, combat support and combat service support situations. Marines who have recently returned from wartime missions not only provide feedback but also convey suggestions and ideas that are often considered and adopted in designing or improving equipment and systems.
The decision-makers and procurement experts who exhibitors want and need to meet attend the expos for up-close and personal exposure to the leading-edge equipment, systems and services—solutions their Marines need for the years ahead. At the Marine Military Expos, networking opportunities among the buyers, the users and defense industry professionals are unlimited. Take advantage of those opportunities for your company by exhibiting at the Marine Military Expos: marinemilitaryexpos.com
Honors and Awards
With so many high-level Marine leaders and other VIPs converging on the expo, important ceremonial events are conveniently scheduled to coincide. Bad weather on Wednesday moved the customary Enlisted Awards parade inside the main Briefing Center tent. There, eight outstanding Marines and one Navy Hospital Corpsman were standing tall to be personally congratulated by Commandant Neller, along with the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps and the Commandant of the Marine Corps League.
For us, the Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock II Award for outstanding contribution to marksmanship training is most prominent among these. 2018’s honoree was Sergeant Kailub S. Young for his exemplary performance while serving as the Line Staff NCO, Charlie Range, Range Company, Weapons and Field Training Battalion, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, California. His award citation notes some 4,589 recruits under his supervision and with his numerous innovations, achieved a record 98.71 percent Combat Marksmanship Initial Qualification, with 2,264 scoring “Expert.” This “undoubtedly enhanced the capabilities of the Marines obtained by Operational Forces.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V23N1 (January 2019)|