STAFFORD, Va. (AP) — If a military unit or a law-enforcement agency needs — right away — a robot tank or a pirate-blasting sound system, long-range thermal binoculars or uniforms with built-in tourniquets, the Force Protection Equipment Demonstration is the place to find them.
“When we put young Americans in harm’s way, we have an obligation to provide them with the best equipment in the world,” said James E. Shane, a retired Army brigadier general who is now the chief executive of South Carolina-based Mobile Armored Vehicles LLC.
With more than 600 vendors and 2,400 vendor employees, about 4,000 pre-registered visitors and 3,000 often high-dollar items on display, the event at Stafford County Regional Airport is the world’s largest force protection event, the U.S. Department of Defense says.
FPED showcases for decision-makers the latest commercial off-the-shelf equipment aimed at countering looming dangers to military and police forces.
“Our claim to fame here is we have no computer,” said Ryland Fleet, showing off his vehicle-mounted machine-gun turret system. “You’re not going to have problems with my system,” said Fleet, who calls his Mechanicsville company Acme Gadget Division. “It’s hard to kill.”
For the dead-serious government and industry figures, FPED pits defensive equipment on display against high explosives and high-powered weapons on the live-fire ranges at nearby Quantico Marine Corps Base.
“It’s my job to keep up with the new … tactics, techniques and procedures,” said Randy Francis, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management’s counterterrorism planning manager.
The demonstration’s blasts and bullets on Quantico’s ranges make it clear, he said, how cost-effective protective systems — armored windows, for instance, or explosion-resistant barriers — are going to be when bad guys come knocking.
Air Force Tech. Sgt. William Briggs talked to BBN Technologies yesterday about a wearable device called the Boomerang that uses sound to tell combat troops where incoming bullets are coming from.
“I actually used the vehicle-mounted Boomerang in Baghdad,” Briggs said. “It seemed to work pretty well.”
Products at FPED have to be ready for prime time: Only items available within 90 days make it to the event.
Suppliers’ representatives at the demonstration frequently are former members of the military and security agencies.
Pete Klein, a business developer with defense contractor Thales, recently retired from the Air Force, where he had been responsible for calling in fighters and bombers to support ground troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In combat, he learned firsthand just how good his new employer’s hand-held radios were.
“I’ve used all this equipment in the military,” Klein said. “We have ones that have bullet holes in them. They still worked.”
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense