After taking a year off due to COVID, the Sea-Air-Space Expo returned for three days of in-person exhibits and educational sessions from the biggest names and decision-makers in the global maritime industry. Several of our clients were in attendance and raved about the show, so we thought it would be useful to share a brief recap.
In fact, we heard from Rebecca Unetic, director of strategy at Fuse Integration that: “Sea-Air-Space was a great show this year and we were extremely pleased with the traffic. We were able to reconnect with customers from NAVAIR and NAVWAR in addition to tons of partners. We’ll definitely be back.”
Hosted by the Navy League of the United States since 1965, “the primary purpose of the expo is to help ensure our international partners and allies remain dominant,” said Mike Stevens, CEO, in his welcome message.
Remaining dominant and prepared was a central theme supported by General John Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who spoke before a luncheon audience. He remarked that “in the next 15 to 20 years, 40 to 50 new technologies will evolve that will fundamentally change the character of war. There is a great power competition occurring today and the nation that masters unmanned systems, artificial intelligence and 5G technology is likely to have a distinct advantage.”
Emerging capabilities were popular topics among the other speakers too, including Rear Admiral Brian Corey, program executive officer for Unmanned and Strike Weapon Systems. He stated that the primary focus for future unmanned and strike weapons will be on greater range, speed, lethality and affordability. He is confident these goals can be accomplished through more modularity and common components.
An “All Domains Operations” panel addressed the challenge of how to integrate the distributed expeditionary operations elements while remaining in control of the communications domain. Colonel David Odom, director of Expeditionary Warfare on the Navy staff, remarked that technologies such as AI and unmanned systems will ensure the integrated, multidomain operations they are working to achieve.
Cybersecurity was a hot topic, too, with the Coast Guard announcing it is actively seeking help from industry in bolstering its security and managing security-related operations. “The marine transportation system is valued at $5.4 trillion. This is a highly vital and valuable target we need to protect. And it is the job of the Coast Guard to protect it,” said Lieutenant Commander Steve Albert of the Coast Guard Office of Cyberspace Forces.
Exhibit Hall, Product Announcements and Demos
The exhibit hall — the largest maritime exposition in the U.S. — was sold out with more than 300 vendors, including a limited number of virtual booths offering virtual chats. Unique to this show were the outdoor demos held at the nearby docks on the Potomac River. Inside, unmanned aircraft models hovered in the air, attendees tried out flight and gunnery simulators and a marine dog played battleship. I kid you not!
If only there was enough room to write about all the exciting announcements from the show, but since there is not, here are just a few:
- Boeing unveiled an artist rendering concept of its HyFly 2 hypersonic cruise missile design for carrier-based strike fighter. The HyFly 2 could join two other options in development by teams from Lockheed Martin/Aerojet, and Raytheon Technologies/Northrop Grumman for the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept program.
- General Dynamics Mission Systems introduced the new Badger software-defined radio that provides Multiple Independent Levels of Security (MILS) for ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore voice and data communications.
- MARTAC demonstrated its new Devil Ray catamaran Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV), which has a burst speed of 80 knots, cruise speed of 25 knots and allows turns at burst speed generating more than 6 Gs.
- One Stop Systems, Inc. demonstrated a long-range visual observation system that supports multi-spectrum real-time observation at up to 30 nautical miles. It can detect a building on fire or an approaching aircraft that has entered restricted airspace. High-performance computer processing, machine learning and analytics allow the detection of objects of interest day or night, regardless of smoke, dust or fog.
- Saildrone showcased its USVs for the first time. Predominantly powered by wind and solar, Saildrone USVs are capable of extreme-duration missions of over nine months in the open ocean, while producing a minimal carbon footprint. With a speed up to 10 knots, the Saildrone Surveyor carries sonar equipment capable of seafloor mapping to 7,000 meters.
What a show! We’ve marked our calendar for Sea-Air-Space 2022, April 4-6 and look forward to sharing another recap.