Show Report: Modern Day Marine Expo 2017

By Robert Bruce

The Latest Innovations in Military Equipment and Systems

Now in his third year as Commandant with a third visit to Modern Day Marine (MDM), four-star General Neller delivered his keynote address, “Littoral Operations in a Contested Environment,” to an overflow crowd on Wednesday in the cavernous Briefing Center tent at the 2017 Modern Day Marine Expo.

With “littoral” defined as that portion of the world’s land masses adjacent to the ocean within direct control of and vulnerable to the striking power of sea-based forces, Neller emphasized that the Navy and Marine Corps will have to “fight to get to the fight,” facing adversaries with long range precision weapon capabilities.

(Editor’s Note: The official MCO document on which Commandant Neller’s presentation was based is available for download at https://marinecorpsconceptsandprograms.com/concepts/littoral-operations-contested-environment)

Much More Than a “Trade Show”

Commandant Neller’s hard-hitting predictions add tremendous weight to the importance of MDM Expos as essential, multifaceted resources for the Marine Corps’ warfighters at all levels and for the defense industry to anticipate and offer solutions for both present and future needs. These needs include everything from hydration to hypersonic weaponry, from biscuits and boots to battlefield digitizing and much, much more.

Sobering Sessions and Preparedness Panels

Near term equipping for the Corps to fight and win in extraordinarily lethal littoral zones is a daunting challenge but ably addressed
in a series of open briefings kicked off on Tuesday morning by Brigadier General Joseph Shrader, who heads up Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC).

MCSC’s managers laid out needs for Command elements, Ground Combat, Logistics, Support, Training and Wargaming.

Naturally, Ground Combat was our main focus, with Colonel Mike Manning detailing 15 specific areas of primary interest. Among these are opportunities to provide improved vehicle protection from various explosive warheads and more sophisticated weapon sights. Specific requirements are noted in several RFIs/RFPs including Squad Common Optics and Suppressors.

(Editor’s Note: All of these Planning Briefs to Industry are available for download at MARCORSYSCOM.marines.mil Click the COMMAND BRIEFS TO INDUSTRY bar.)

Rounding out Tuesday’s program were briefings on Science and Technology, Non-Lethal Weapons and a very welcome tutorial for small businesses on how to do business with the Corps.

Wednesday kicked off with the colorful Enlisted Awards Parade, immediately followed by General Neller’s keynote address. Then, there were two panel discussions building on the Commandant’s remarks.

USMC Intelligence Activity examined Challenges to the Future Operational Environment and Warfighting Lab/Futures Directorate providing perspective on Challenges and Opportunities in Littoral Operations.

Thursday’s panels included a report on experimentation by Warfighting/Futures—including robots and the new fielding of quadcopters— and next generation requirements like beachhead-swarming mini-bots foreseen by Capabilities Development Directorate.

For specific solicitations and contract awards see FEDBIZOPPS. Also, Defense Innovation Marketplace is a comprehensive resource: defenseinnovationmarketplace.mil

Show and Tell

The Corps wisely uses the timing of the annual Expo in a number of ways as an efficient opportunity for meaningful interaction with large and small sources in the defense industry. It’s a two-way information superhighway that bypasses many of the bureaucratic bottlenecks encountered in dealing with other services making up the US Armed Forces.

Following Tuesday’s Planning Briefings, show exhibitors who had made on-site arrangements were given the opportunity for faceto-face meetings with decision makers. This facilitates meaningful show and tell right at the vendor’s booth or in Tent B’s distinctive “Marine Zone.”

Show, Tell, Shoot

“Once per year, Weapons Training Battalion, in conjunction with Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, will invite select industry participants to the Marksmanship Technology Demonstration to demonstrate commercial off-the-shelf technologies with potential to address Marine Corps marksmanship gaps. The Marksmanship Technology Demonstration is not a tradeshow” (RFI for 2017 MTD)

While making the rounds of gun-oriented exhibits we caught wind of some live-fire show and tell underway on Quantico’s ranges—by invitation only and closed to press. We followed up later through official USMC channels and got the straight scoop on what and why.

A formal RFI (Request for Information), issued months earlier, invited industry participation in an MTD exclusively for “Marine Corps units/agencies that are within the capability development process.”

This year’s focus was on targets and rifle components, specifically Automated Smart Static and Mobile Target Systems, Infantry Rifles, Suppressors and Optics. Naturally, we asked for info on participating entities and their products. That was a no-go, but that’s understandable, and we don’t choose to reveal here the ones we know about.

The RFI made it clear the potential payoff for participants was by no means assured, “... promising technologies may be selected for extended user evaluations.”

Officials also emphasized that, “The MTD held in 2016 and 2017 were not associated with MDM. The MTD 2017 was aligned with MDM to make it easier for the vendors. The MTD scheduled for 2018 will NOT be an MDM event even if held during the same period.” We read you Lima Charlie (loud and clear) and urge purveyors of dead-serious shooting stuff to closely monitor FedBizOpps.gov for next year’s MTD RFI. Do it for the Devil Dog Grunts—they damn sure appreciate your help.

More than 400 Exhibitors

For all three days of the Expo, while deadly serious information was being dispensed in the Briefing Center tent, the other three big tops and the outside displays were buzzing with activity as visitors from ranging from enlisted Marines to high level 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, aircraft mockups and the like.

All are certainly compelling to others, but manportable weaponry is our stock in trade. 2017’s lineup included infantry weapons from prominent names like American Rheinmetall, Barrett, Beretta, Colt, FN , General Dynamics, Glock, HK, Knight’s, Nammo, SAAB and SIG.

Some rivals in the firearms arena include Geissele, Hardened Arms, Phoenix Defence (Foreign Weapons & Training) and Seekins Precision.

Short Bursts

Space limitations dictate just brief notes on what we encountered, so follow-up information is encouraged, of course, by visiting vendor websites.

Having won the Army’s Modular Handgun competition, SIG was proudly showing actual M17 and M18 production-line pistols. Glock was nearby, touting selection of the 9mm Gen 5 G17 and 19 pistols by the FBI and discreetly noting the Marine Corps’ choice of the 19M/M007 for CID and Marine One personnel.

Beretta’s distinctive APX pistol is now available in .40 S&W; Knight’s 5.56mm Light Assault Machine Gun puts the M249 to shame; Mile High Shooting is now the exclusive North American source for Accuracy International’s AX rifles; and Barrett is expanding its REC line with the new REC 10 in .308.

LaRue Tactical, fresh from victory in USASOC’s sniper competition, was showing the Limited-Edition 7.62 PredatAR in FDE coloration. FN America’s always impressive display was doubly so this time with a real Little Bird helo sporting an HMP .50-cal gun pod.

We remain cautiously optimistic for the future of Textron/AAI’s CT (Cased Telescoped) duo of belt-fed weapons and follow-ons. Engineer Kevin Ayotte updated us on impressive progress of the latest; a 6.5mm carbine version that’s readily adaptable to whatever caliber emerges from the Army’s seemingly endless examinations.

Some bigger weapons we were drawn to included SAAB’s latest Carl Gustaf M3E1/M4 tank and bunker-buster and AM General’s heavy-hitting 105 howitzer on a Hummer. Nammo Talley’s latest upgrade to the warhorse LAW (counterweight rocket propellant developed in conjunction with NSWC) offers Marines both anti-armor and anti-structure loads that can be safely fired from enclosed spaces. Raytheon’s slim, 17-inch long, PIKE laser-guided munition is fired from a rifle-mounted grenade launcher.

Nice to Have

Safe Tech has some very practical, empty chamber indicators that instantly eject like cartridges; Hardened Arms’ Illuminated Luma Shark handguard has an integral flashlight; and both Pro Shot (COY-AR-223) and Otis (Defender-IMOD) have new and improved weapon cleaning kits.

Geissele’s “Gas Pedal” selector for ARs comes in response to USMC-operator demand, and Blue Force Gear showed its tiny marker lights and emphasized a discount program for individual military and LE customers.

Magpul’s latest big deal is USMC’s approval and adoption of the Gen 3 PMAG, now enhanced with a round-counter window.

Gerber’s new Center Drive multi-tool is notable, as is Spyderco’s long popular Delica folding knife and its Top Trainer counterpart. 511 Tactical’s XPRT waterproof, breathable garments significantly outperform Gore-Tex and similar fabrics, and Streamlight showed the new Stinger Switchblade LED Light Bar.

We always made it a point to visit the Small Business Pavilion and again found much to recommend. Notably, the T:WORX Intelligent Rail system for AR family weapons, supplying power to mounted accessories and delivering their output to a digital datastream. We also visited with The Gun Shop, specializing in ATK and Federal ammo, and Southern Police Equipment, showcasing its extensive military and LE line.

Taking Aim

Trijicon’s new SNIPE-IR Thermal Clip-On teams with preferred day optics for brilliant imaging even in total darkness. Leupold’s Delta Point Pro red dot is likely to be USSOCOM’s choice for topping their many Glocks.

The compact and mean looking M4A1 SOCC from Troy Industries sported a Leupold D-EVO (Dual Enhanced View Optic), and we checked out Excelitas Techs’ SAKER Fused Weapon Sight, combining uncooled thermal and image intensification.

General Dynamics’ Next Generation FCS for 40mm GMGs and .50 cal HMGs computes an adjusted aiming point with data from its onboard sensors. While not technically a sight, the Glare Recoil LA-22U from B.E. Meyers is the USMC’s official on-weapon Ocular Interrupter for non-lethal engagements.


The Corps and other serious warfighting branches are determined to put suppressors on as many weapons as practical. Nexgen Defense’s innovative MAX FLO 3D AFD suppressor shows promise, as does Giessele’s Super Night Owl.

Marine Zone

Easily found in Tent B’s expansive Marine Zone, exhibits by elements of Marine Corps Systems Command and PEO Land Systems are mandatory stopovers, never disappointing. Robots for recon, fighting and logistics were front and center once again—the crawling and flying kinds as well as an amusing dance recital featuring “Spot,” Warfighting Lab’s robot dog.

The Corps has recently fielded an improved digital shooting gallery that was understandably popular at the Expo with Marines and others lined up for virtual trigger time. ISMT III (Indoor Simulated Marksmanship Trainer 3rd generation) is the system’s latest upgrade, boasting superior 3D graphics and including five infantry weapons from M9 pistol to M72 LAW.

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, offering innovative weapon sights, ammo, accessories, edged weapons, hydration, chow, extreme weather clothing, rugged gear, stun gun shocks, VR racing and more, enjoy not only our attention but that of seasoned 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 many thousands of free copies of Small Arms Review and Small Arms Defense Journal were handed out by the Chipotle Publications team. Best deal at the show.

“Expeditionary Convention Center”

It’s billed as “the world’s largest military exposition focusing on enhanced capabilities for expeditionary forces.” Now under the leadership of Alex Hetherington, a veteran Marine Aviator, this year’s Modern Day Marine Expo was held from September 19–21 aboard Marine Corps Base, Quantico, Virginia.

Co-sponsored by the base, the Marine Corps League and Marine Corps Systems Command, the 37th Annual MDM showcased the products and services of more than 400 entities that support military land, air and sea operations.

Wendell W. Webb, 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 three enormous, sparkling white, climate-controlled tents, as well as others showcasing small business and housing the 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.

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 confronting enemies in Iraq, Afghanistan 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, DC, 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 the 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 those organizations took advantage of continuously running shuttle buses to visit the exhibit halls and discuss missions, capabilities and requirements with defense industry professionals.

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. At Wednesday evening’s formal Grand Banquet and Awards Dinner at Pentagon City’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Bob Simmons, staff director of the House Committee on Armed Services, received the Marine Corps League’s Iron Mike Award.

Wednesday morning’s impressively colorful Enlisted Awards Parade featured the awesome precision of the Silent Drill Platoon along with stirring music from the Commandant’s Own Drum and Bugle Corps. Eight outstanding Marines and one Navy Hospital Corpsman were standing tall to be personally congratulated by Commandant Neller, the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps and Commandant of the Marine Corps League.

For us, the Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock Award for outstanding contribution to marksmanship training is most prominent among these. 2017’s honoree was Sergeant Narendra Sookdeo for his exemplary performance while serving as Program Manager, Marksmanship Doctrine and Programs Management Section, Weapons Training Battalion, Quantico, Virginia, for all of 2016.

Marine Military Expos 2018

Next year’s Modern Day Marine Expo is scheduled for September 25–27, once again at MCB Quantico. This is the largest of three related shows where exhibitors meet the Marines on their own turf.

Marine West Expo 2018 is slated for February 7 and 8 at Camp Pendleton, CA, and Marine South Expo 2018 for April 11 and 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 exhibitors want and need to 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: www.marinemilitaryexpos.com

All listing of exhibitors, their websites and other information may be found at www.marinemilitaryexpos.com

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V22N3 (March 2018)
and was posted online on February 9, 2018


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