Newest Weapons on Display at Marine West
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
This week, the Camp Pendleton Marine Base near San Diego hosted a huge display of new weapons in defense technology. The Marine West Expo is an opportunity for defense contractors to meet with their most reliable customers, the Marines who use their gear on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Alison St. John of member station KPBS reports.
ALISON ST. JOHN: The Weapons Expo opened with "Anchors Away." Almost 200 exhibitors, defense contractors large and small, stood to attention and then got down to business promoting products they hoped would appeal to their customer base, Marines with real experience on the battlefield.
Mr. SEAN CONNOR (Noble Bio Materials): I'm Sean Connor with Noble Bio Materials. What we do for the Marines today is incorporate our silver fiber into their garments. It naturally kills bacteria. So imagine a shirt that can act as a bandage. You wear your first aid kit to battle. Also what we do is eliminate odor. It's the enemy you can't see.
ST. JOHN: For the enemy you can see, there's this line of three-foot long silver and black rockets.
Mr. DEE SCHWARTZ (Tally Defense Systems): I'm Dee Schwartz from Tally Defense Systems. The products you see here are primarily shoulder-fired rockets. And then (unintelligible) is the large in-house blast rocket that can be used to take snipers out of buildings. It basically knocks the building down with the sniper in it. It's very effective when you're getting that kind of fire and the Marines love it.
ST. JOHN: Lieutenant Lively of the First LAR Battalion liked it.
Lieutenant LIVELY: I used the AP-4. I never used any of these. It does the same job as the AP-4 and it's half the weight. You know, it sounds good to me. Use it to make - blow holes in walls. There's a lot of things you can use it for. I mean, it's just nice to have.
ST. JOHN: The aisles are full of young Marines in combat fatigues trying out the latest gadget for cleaning gun barrels and asking about batteries that can be recharged with solar power.
Lieutenant ESPINELLA(ph): I'm Lieutenant Espinella with the medical logistics company. The most interesting thing that I've seen is from practical maps for Iraq and everything. You would be able to plan out your mission, and it shows the map in a 3-D. So you would be able to visualize your destination and everything.
ST. JOHN: It's almost like virtually going there before you've gone there.
Lieutenant ESPINELLA: Exactly.
ST. JOHN: There's new technology that could have come out of a science fiction movie, like an unmanned aircraft about the size of a flying washing machine with a camera mounted on the hood.
Mr. BOB ASHTON (Northrop Grummet): I'm Bob Ashton and we're working with Northrop Grummet to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance asset.
ST. JOHN: It does look a bit like R2D2, doesn't it?
Mr. ASHTON: It doesn't talk back to you, though.
ST. JOHN: But you can communicate with it?
Mr. ASHTON: They're pretty cutting edge, but it's something that's very useful for an operator now to have the ability to stop in midair and investigate something that they don't understand and get down closer to it if they want to. Over a kilometer, we can both see and designate a target.
ST. JOHN: Over in a big tent pitched outside, Natalie Wilson of Oshkosh Truck Corporation looked tiny beside a towering yellow pickup truck.
Ms. NATALIE WILSON (Oshkosh Truck Corporation): We're here today to showcase our MTVR 4x4.
ST. JOHN: It's a lot bigger than a Hummer.
Ms. WILSON: Oh, yes. Basically, it's one of the biggest trucks on the road. If you can imagine a suped-up pickup truck, tires probably about three to four feet tall, driving down the highway. When you look to your right and you see one of these babies come down, you know to get out of the way.
ST. JOHN: The young Marines left the Expo with bags full of posters and free samples. Many of these products will be on their wish lists the next time they deploy.
For NPR News, I'm Alison St. John in San Diego.
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