MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. – As US Marine Corps officials at last week's Modern Day Marine expo touted the need for innovation, companies in the small business tent showed how technology is already reshaping modern warfare.
Speaking during a panel presentation for industry, Maj. Gen. Vincent Coglianese, assistant deputy commandant for installations and logistics, said the Marine Corps needs to embrace innovation, not only in terms of equipment but in its thinking. He called upon the defense industry to look beyond traditional methods to help the Marine Corps adapt.
"That innovation, those solutions, and not thinking, 'That's the way we used to do it' — how we're going do it in the future in this challenge is what we need help with," he said.
The antenna, which can help units establish broadband linkups in remote areas, has been used by Special Forces since 2008, and is currently used by all four service branches.
"It's a really big antenna in a little-bitty box," said GATR CEO and President Paul Gierow.
Traditionally, a Marine Expeditionary Unit satellite communications load-out would weigh more than 25,000 pounds and take up almost 2,600 cubic feet, compared to just 3,000 pounds and 189 cubic feet for GATR's inflatable satellite antenna system, according to the company's figures.
The Belcamp, Maryland-based company is working with UK-based Malloy Aeronautics to develop hover bikes with a goal of keeping in-flight noise under 80 decibels, making them more difficult to spot when flying low and fast.
Advanced technology was also on display in small packages, such as Aegisound's noise-reducing headsets for flight deck personnel supporting the very loud F-35 jump jet. By placing digital active noise reduction in custom-fitted earbuds inside larger cups worn over the ears, the Christiansburg, Virginia-based company offers three forms of hearing protection for on-deck personnel.
Used properly, the headset can reduce noise levels by 30 decibels, making radio communication possible when paired with a noise-reducing microphone and muzzle.
Just as with other parts of the budget, cost considerations are important for companies looking to bring innovation to the Pentagon, said Bill Taylor, the Marine Corps' program executive officer for land systems.
"Just like competing for programs of record, I would suggest that industry's ability to prioritize innovation is taking a hit as we progressively move through these budget struggles," Taylor said. "Just like competing for contracts, the ability to invest in innovation is significantly impacted by declining budgets."