By Robert Bruce
“The theme for this year’s exposition… captures the emphasis our Corps is placing on adaptation and innovation. It also reflects our Corps’ focused efforts toward increased naval integration. With emergent technology, pacing threats and adversary advancements in capabilities like long-range precision fires, sea control and denial will undoubtedly be crucial in future conflicts. We rely on or industry partners to conceptualize and develop the capabilities we need to ensure that our Marines never have to enter a fair fight.”—General David H. Berger,
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In the customary statement provided as a kickoff to the Expo, General Berger gave the essence of what’s detailed in the 26 pages of his July 2019 “Commandant’s Planning Guidance” (unclassified version available at marines.mil/Portals/1/Publications/Commandant’s%20 Planning%20Guidance_2019.pdf?ver=2019-07-17-090732-937).
Deftly pivoting from decades of mostly land-based counterinsurgency toward countering the already powerful and fast-growing seaborne threat from Communist China, by 2023, the USMC will have “re-estab-lished our identity as a naval expeditionary force and enhanced our relationship with the Fleets as an extension of naval power as the FMF (Fleet Marine Force).”
This new direction—characterized by some as a return to a proven model from WWII where the Navy and Marine Corps faced enemies with land, sea and air capabilities that were almost evenly matched—was energetically supported in all aspects of this annual Expeditionary Warfare extravaganza.
Defense industry reps and Navy/Marine Corps program offices showed their wares and interacted with high-value attendees; not just generals, Pentagon leaders and allied military shoppers, but multitudes of new-generation Marines, Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen and others.
New and Improved
Under guidance from Expo director Alex Hetherington, some welcomed streamlining was evident this year in both presentation of information and arrangement of the show floor.
First, Marine Corps Systems Command’s (MARCORSYSCOM) customary Advance Planning Briefing to Industry (APBI) was held a week earlier in nearby Fredericksburg. With prior clearance of corporate attendees and closing it to press snoopers, the APBIs were given in greater depth and free from distraction. But not to worry, useful overviews for all potential vendors for ground combat, logistics, support and training are readily available on MARCORSYSCOM’s website.
[Author’s Note: The website for MDM Expos is among the most comprehensive and user-friendly we’ve encountered. There’s a wealth of information 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 APBIs and much more at marcorsyscom.marines.mil. For specific solicitations and contract awards see FedBizOpps.gov or fbo.gov. Also, Defense Innovation Marketplace is a comprehensive resource: defense innovation mar ketplace.mil.]
Ground combat is our focus so we zeroed in on the APBI presentation by Colonel Jeff Stower, GCE Portfolio Manager. On the weapons track, he’s looking for help from Industry with a prioritized list of 16 items including lightweight, multispectral imagers and rangefinders, improved heavy/medium machine gun systems and anti-ship-from-shore weapons.
Fully funded and in the RFP (Request for Proposal) pipeline are eight opportunities including a Squad Common Optic and more suppressors. We’re pleased to note that last year’s call for improved NVGs was answered by Harris Corporation, recently awarded the $249 million Squad Binocular Night Vision Goggle contract. And the seemingly endless quest for “Next Generation Squad Weapons” is coming closer to reality with the Army now evaluating weapon system candidates from three firms. Of particular significance is that they’re all in 6.8mm.
The usual Marksmanship Technology Demonstrations over at the Weapons Training Battalion range complex (NOT an Expo event but conveniently scheduled while MDM is underway) weren’t held this time. Our inquiry through official channels revealed that there was so much good stuff presented last year that the Corps has its hands full with follow-up evaluations. So keep an eye on FedBizOpps.gov in the coming months to see if this excellent opportunity to show and shoot will be back on in 2020.
The usual three cavernous main exhibit tents were stitched together this time to form a single, massive open display floor without those annoying walls in between. Navigation to individual exhibits was facilitated by “streets” named for iconic USMC combat actions and by overhead signs with booth group numbers.
Attendees were able to chart their targets of interest using location numbers from the printed show guide or use the clever QR code scans for their smart phones. Also, the Augmented Reality Experience show app went way beyond mere navigation; this effort, partnered with wallcrawls.com, has lots of interesting features including virtual interaction with a life-size LAV and 3D versions of WWII famous GI cartoon characters Willie and Joe.
Show, Tell, Listen
Again this year was an expanded set of formal presentations, information panels, product demonstrations and “booth briefs” both scheduled and off-the-cuff for up-close interaction.
A dozen Panels and Sessions over the 3-day event included “Marine Corps Futures” presented by Office of Naval Research and USMC Warfighting Lab, and additional sessions from proponents of non-lethal weaponry, Intel topics and harsh realities of “Amphibious Warships in Near-Peer Maritime Superiority Contests.”
Running concurrently were eight briefings from academia and foundations. Opportunities included information on the Wounded Warrior Regiment, MC Fitness, Young Marines and more. Numerous “Booth Briefs,” conducted on the show floor at scheduled times offered insights in artificial intelligence, augmented reality, future technology and harnessing the power of certain NCOs who have special skills.
Nearly 400 Exhibitors
Deadly serious information was dispensed in the Briefing Center while the gigantic main tent and the outside displays were buzzing with activity during all 3 days of the Expo as visitors ranging from youthful enlisted Marines to high level military, DoD and industry powerhouses patrolled the aisles. Discipline is required 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.
Freshly armed with information provided in briefings by MARCORSYSCOM and others, defense industry attendees fanned out to talk directly with key program personnel in the “Marine Zone,” centrally located in the exhibit hall on Iwo Jima Highway. This is a concentration of related displays showing what’s under development or consideration at Systems Command and allied entities like Warfighting Lab and Office of Naval Research.
The Warfighting Lab is working toward effectively combining robotics, sensors, manned/unmanned vehicles and dismounted Marines with a focus on improving Marines’ ability to sense and locate the threat, observing their speed of decision making and action as well as determining their lethality when employing traditional and surrogate equipment versus an enemy force. mcwl.marines.mil
The Navy claims ownership of the Marines, so cutting edge research and development at the Office of Naval Research (ONR) deserves respect and attention in exhibits. While this super high-tech command has lots of cutting edge 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, as well as leap-ahead improvements in integrated day–night optics.
In addition to advancements in high energy lasers and directed energy weaponry, many of ONR’s areas of exploration are borderline science fiction. An example is Warfighter Augmentation which aims for future Marines and Sailors to benefit from “applied research investigating the design of biomaterials to augment naval warfighter performance (i.e., multifunctional, shape-shifting, self-healing, bio-hybrid adaptive materials including biosensors and bioelectronics).” onr.navy.mil
Space limitations dictate just brief notes on some of the things we encountered, so follow-up information is encouraged by visiting vendor websites as noted.
Small Arms, of Course
All of the Expo’s offerings are compelling, but manportable weaponry is our stock in trade. 2019’s lineup included weapons from prominent names like American Rheinmetall, Barrett, Beretta, FN America, General Dynamics, GLOCK, HK and SIG SAUER. Right on their heels are close rivals Geissele, LaRue Tactical and Radian Weapons.
While there were plenty of good guns, we were not alone in disappointment over not finding any of the three Next Generation Squad Weapon candidate systems recently selected for the latest phase of intense evaluation by the Army. GD-OTS and SIG SAUER apologized, saying look them up next month at AUSA (Association of the U.S. Army’s annual expo).
Textron/AAI said, “You should have come by on Tuesday.” Seems the one they had on display that first day was apparently needed else-where. This author wonders whether it is time to say goodbye to legacy weapons in NATO standard 5.56 and 7.62 ammo.
Barrett. Another priority was stopping by Barrett’s booth to see Joel Miller, Director of Global Military Sales, to note the company’s victory in Special Operations Command’s Advanced Sniper Rifle competition with a .300-PRC-caliber MRAD. barrett.net
HK. HK was just a short walk from Barrett, conveniently located on “Chosin Reservoir Highway.” We congratulated them on winning the latest CSASS (Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System) contract right on top of supplying the Marine Corps with even more enormous quantities of the M27 IAR. Also, to ask about the announcement that HK would be teaming with Textron/AAI to manufacture their NGSW if selected by the Army. hk-usa.com
Radian Weapons. Long known as makers of excellent primary components and accessories for AR-type rifles, Radian Weapons has a new high-end AR called the Model 1 that can be custom-tailored in configuration, barrel length and caliber. radianweapons.com
GLOCK. GLOCK soldiers on strongly with their simple, reliable, cost-effective handguns, now including the new G45, an LE version of the G19X. Yes, they knew about the clever PDW modification kit from KPOS. us.glock.com
SAAB / Aimpoint. While a bit bigger than what’s usually defined as small arms, “The Goose” (SAAB’s 84mm Carl Gustaf shoulder cannon) is now well-positioned in the weapons mix of Marine Corps rifle squads. Its selection of special purpose rounds is unparalleled, and the Aimpoint FCS13RE Dynamic Universal Reflex Sight gives superior hit probability on static and moving targets. saabgroup.com / aimpoint.com
Trijicon. The Corps’ M16s and M4s have long been enhanced by Trijicon’s fixed 4-power ACOG, but dial-up magnification is on the shopping list. Undoubtedly under consideration is Trijicon’s tank-tough 1-6×24 power Variable Combat Optical Gunsight (VCOG). trijicon.com
Photonis. We should mention the Photonis Vyper-14 upgrade. The AN/PVS-14, a Special Ops favorite, now gets 40% greater range with the new 4G image intensifier tube. photonis.com
Control Solutions. Super expensive, remotely operated weapons stations have an upstart rival in the Remote Fire Option™ System from Control Solutions. controls.com
Smart Shooter. “Smart” weapon sights are hot items, and the SMASH 2000 from Smart Shooter Ltd. is said to ensure “that each round hits its designated target, day or night, while keeping friendly forces and uninvolved population safe.” smart-shooter.com
ATN. Boasting “the most advanced optics on the market,” ATN has another hit with BinoX 4T, integrating thermal imaging with laser range-finding and dual stream video. atncorp.com
Nice to Have
Nammo Talley. Grenades and pyrotechnics are stock in trade for Nammo Talley, and U.S. Special Operations Command is an enthusiastic buyer of their Scalable Offensive Hand Gre-nade. Depending on the threat situation, these juice-can-sized fist bombs can be used individually or stack up to three for maximum effect. nammotalley.com
American Rheinmetall. We were amused to note that American Rheinmetall’s MITHRAS, the handheld rocket developed with the British Army for signaling and illumination, starred in the James Bond movie “Skyfall.” americanrheinmetall.com
QinetiQ North America. When the question is “Where did THAT shot come from?” QinetiQ’s EARS Gunshot Localization System provides the answer instantly with should-der-worn, vehicle-mounted and fixed-site versions. qinetiq-na.com
Streamlight. Light ‘em up! Streamlight’s latest TLR-7A Rail-Mounted Light is a white light illuminator with strobe function and switch options for continuous high or low intensity. streamlight.com
OSS Suppressors. There are lots of good suppressors out there, and here’s the one the Army selected as the quiet component for the new M110A1 CSASS/Squad Designated Marks-man Rifle from HK. osssuppressors.com
Otis Defense. Keep it clean. Whatever your small arms choice, there’s a specialized kit from Otis. otisdefense.com
Gerber Gear. If the M4 is your weapon, carry Gerber’s CENTER-DRIVE multi-tool with a bunch of carbine-specialized bits. gerbergear.com
Spyderco. A good blade is more than just nice to have, it should be both a last resort weapon and a “gotta-have” tool. Spyderco’s new Assist rescue/responder tool with efficient rope and webbing cutter blade. spyderco.com
Benchmade. The company’s new TRIAGE family of folding knives features a drop-point, serrated blade along with a glass breaker and webbing cutter. benchmade.com
Southern Grind. This company was new to the show this year, introducing the WASP tactical tomahawk and the Tunnel to Towers Spider Monkey Tanto. southerngrind.com
Bates Footwear. Ground pounders appreciate a good “Leather Personnel Carrier,” like the new USMC Lightweight DuraShocks Boot, complete with USMC logo of course. bates-footwear.com
Small Business. Big Ideas.
We always make it a point to visit the Small Business showcase; this time it was right there with everybody in the Big Tent, lined up against the back wall for ready access.
ATTS. First, a success story. We were very pleased to see that ATTS (Advanced Tactical Training Systems)—first encountered in MDM’s small business tent a couple of years ago—has flourished. Now with an expanded line of products and services shown in a prominent, eye-catching booth on the main floor, Jon Ford’s highly realistic “force-on-force” training simulation is winning wherever it goes. combataction.net
Arbor Arms. Unhappy with that standard issue, load carrying equipment? The tactical gear gurus at Arbor Arms have an excellent line of specialized, modular components. arborarmsusa.com
Secubit. Store and then analyze precise information on your weapon’s round count, barrel temperature, rate of fire, muzzle velocity and more with the WeaponLogic smart counter from Secubit. secubit-ltd.com
Handily, the Corps’ Small Business office was also strategically located, busily dispensing “how to” advice to eager applicants. marcorsyscom.marines.mil
Very Honorable Mentions
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 Mobile Marksmanship Training Simulator (MMTS) and SimRange simulators. lasershot.com
Ultimate Training Munitions / Simunition. While electronic simulators are great in many situations, using non-lethal marking rounds takes the game to a much higher level. CCMCK (close combat mission capability kit) from Ulti-mate Training Munitions and Simunition’s FX rounds were on display in all the standard calibers from pistols to machine guns. utmworld-wide.com / simunition.com
National Museum of the Marine Corps. It would be close to criminal negligence to come all the way to the Expo and fail to visit the Corps’ spectacular, state-of-the-art museum, just outside the main gate. marineheritage.org
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 and more, enjoy not only our attention, but that of salty Marines of all ranks swarming the aisles. Word of particularly notable items gets around quickly, and reps are always kept busy with show-and-tell duties.
Hungry? Thirsty? Carried on the warm, gentle breeze, stimulating aromas from a tantalizing variety of delicious food wafted over the area, tempting fans with BBQ pork, beef or chicken, hamburgers, pizza, tacos, Italian sausage, gyros, Philly cheese steaks, classic doughnuts and authentic Maryland-style crab cake sandwiches.
Sponsored by Perspecta (perspecta.com), the Semper Fi mixer took place opening day right after closing time. Invited exhibitors and active duty Marines informally interacted with personnel from Marine Corps Systems Command. Complimentary beer, wine and barbeque contributed to conviviality of the mili-tary-industrial complex.
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. chipotlepublishing.com
A full listing of exhibitors, links to their websites and other information may be found at 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. Beautiful weather on Wednesday favored the Enlisted Awards Parade on Lejeune Field in front of MCB Quantico Headquarters. There, eight outstanding Marines and one Navy Hospital Corpsman were standing tall to be personally congratulated by Commandant Berger, along with the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps and the Commandant of the Marine Corps League.
For us, the Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hath-cock II Award for outstanding contribution to marksmanship training is most prominent among these. 2019’s honoree was Staff Sergeant Stephen T. Ferguson, assigned to Weapons Training Battalion. Here’s an excerpt from the nomination:
“Staff Sergeant Ferguson is enthusiastically recommended for the Carlos Hatchcock Award for his outstanding contribution to the combat readiness of Marines throughout the Fleet Marine Force, his influence outside the Marine Corps by coaching junior competitors on high school and college shooting teams, and for sustained support to Weapons Training Battalion and the Marine Corps Shooting Team from December 2017 to August 2019.
Staff Sergeant Ferguson currently holds the billet of Competitor / Instructor, Marine Corps Rifle Team, Weapons Training Battalion. He is the Marine Corp’s most lethal rifleman currently serving on active duty. He is a triple distinguished shooter: Distinguished Rifleman, Distinguished Pistol Shot, Distinguished .22 Pistol, and is working towards his Distinguished Revolver badge. Since 1901 when the Marine Corps Shooting Team was formed, only fourteen Marines in the history of the Competition in Arms Program have ever become triple distinguished. He can teach and coach any Marine with below-average marksmanship skills into a lethal rifleman worthy of the title, “Every Marine a Rifleman.” As an instructor with the Rifle Team, he has directly influenced the marksmanship readiness of more than 1,600 Marines, Sailors and civilian competitors.”
“Sharing the Needs and Ideas of Future Weapon Systems”
It’s billed as “the world’s largest military exposition focusing on enhanced capabilities for expeditionary forces.” Kicked up a notch yet again under the leadership of Alex Hetherington, a veteran Marine aviator, this year’s Modern Day Marine Expo was held from September 17–19 at Marine Corps Base (MCB) Quantico in Virginia.
Co-sponsored by the base, Marine Corps Systems Command, the Marine Corps League, Marine Corps Association and Foundation and AAFMAA, the 39th Annual MDM Expo showcased the products and services of nearly 400 entities that support U.S. and allied military land, air and sea operations.
Dennis Tobin, National Commandant of the Marine Corps League, emphasized his organization’s vision for this annual event. “The Marine Corps League is committed to the Modern Day Marine Expo as a program to share the development and awareness of the tools our future Marine Warriors will need for the next unknown conflict. This type of Expo allows the industry team to interact with the planners, general officers, Staff NCOs, NCOs and the Warriors on the ground or in the air, sharing the needs and ideas of future weapon systems that turn into requirements then tactics.”
Exhibits at this year’s exposition filled an enormous, sparkling white, climate-controlled tent, and several other tents housed the official briefings. These, and adjacent space in the outdoor display area, were packed with the latest operational equipment and technology, along with videos, models and prototypes of items soon to enter service. Exhibit booths for the Marine Corps League, Young Marines, Toys for Tots and similar programs were strategically located in the main exhibit tent, promoting the good works of their organizations and encouraging support and membership. The Marine Corps League members and volunteers cheerfully offered complimentary bags filled with information and MCL gifts to uniformed Marines and others attending the Expo.
Defense contractors from throughout the U.S. and some allied nations signed on to show their products and services, get feedback from the warfighters and respond to questions.
Much of the equipment now used by Marines and other U.S. and allied forces con-fronting adversaries in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Pacific Rim and elsewhere around the globe was first presented to military leaders, operations planners and acquisition managers at previous editions of the Expo.
As well as experiencing the latest, greatest technological advances, attendees can go face-to-face with many of the nonprofit organizations and agencies that exist to assist service members and veterans.
Crossroads of the Marine Corps
Strategically located about 30 minutes’ drive south of Washington, D.C., America’s capital city with powerful lawmakers, the Pentagon, numerous defense contractors and foreign embassies, MCB Quantico is an ideal Expo location.
It is home of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, charged with developing Marine warfighting concepts and determining the Corps’ capability requirements for doctrine, equipment, organization, training, education and support.
The Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory at Quantico is part of the Development Command and responsible for improving current and future naval expeditionary warfare capabilities for Marines and their amphibious roles and missions.
Also at Quantico is Marine Corps Systems Command, principal agency for acquisition and sustainment of systems and equipment for the Marines’ warfighting mission. Many of the personnel who staff these organizations visited the exhibit halls and discussed missions, capabilities and requirements with defense industry professionals.
Marine Military Expos 2020
Next year’s Modern Day Marine Expo is scheduled for September 22–24, once again at MCB Quantico, Virginia. This is the largest of three related shows where exhibitors meet the Marines on their own turf.
Marine West 2020 is slated for February 6–7 at Camp Pendleton, CA, and Marine South 2020 for April 2–3 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 want and need to attend the expos for up-close and personal exposure to the leading-edge equipment, systems, services and 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
MCL at MDM
MDM 2020: Show Master Info
Date and Location
September 22–24, 2020
Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, USA
Marine Military Expos
1525 Wilson Blvd., Suite 1200
Arlington, VA, 22209
MDM is billed as “the world’s largest military exposition focusing on enhanced capabilities for expeditionary forces.”
Business casual for civilians and duty uniform for military.
Most U.S. chains have hotels and motels locally. The nearby Stafford and Fredericksburg areas have a lot of great lodging and dining options. Book early; the event is a very popular show, and the hotels fill up fast. See the Hotel and Travel link at the MDM website.
Numerous vendors right on site featuring delicious local and regional food and beverage items.
Power and Plug Types
North American standard 110 volts AC.
General American culture in the immediate area with a tendency toward “Southern hospitality” from friendly, polite and helpful locals. The show and the base have specific USMC culture as well; pride in being courteous, straightforward and honest. Attend the show, interact with Marines, and you’ll understand.
U.S. customs apply. Tip taxis about 10%, bellhops $1 per bag minimum and Skycaps $2 per bag. For sit-down restaurants tip 15-25%, depend-ing on service quality. Note “tip jars“ at some of the show’s food ven-dors. Toss in a dollar or two for these hard-working folks.
U.S. dollars (USD). Go to xe.com for current exchange rates.
Fly into Dulles International, Ronald Reagan Washington National or Stafford Regional airports.
The spectacular National Museum of the Marine Corps is just outside MCB Quantico. Numerous other museums are located in Virginia (Mount Vernon, George Washington’s estate) and nearby Washington D.C. (Smithsonian Institution).
Visas required for all foreign visitors. Popular attractions in the area are found in and around Washington D.C., about 30 miles from MCB Quantico. D.C.’s official travel and tourism website is washington.org.
And as noted below, tourism in Virginia is safer, with the added benefit of splendidly preserved battlefields from the Civil War. See virginia.org
Although recent federal court rulings should have relaxed D.C.’s draconian gun prohibitions, no one other than on-duty military or authorized law enforcement personnel should take a chance by carrying firearms, magazines or even a single round of live ammunition into the District of Columbia without obtaining the most strictly controlled permits. Not surprisingly, the nation’s capital city has all of the usual big city problems. Visitors are cautioned against walking or even driving in all but the most heavily patrolled areas. The Maryland suburbs are almost as bad. Stay in Virginia, but make it south of Alexandria and near Quantico. Much more safe and sane.