AUSA 2016: First impressions

I had the fortune and ability to attend this year’s AUSA conference in Washington DC. This was admittedly my first large defense industry conference. I was unfortunately only able to attend the last two days, both of which were  disrupted by job obligations but I was able to take some photographs, bring back some literature and talk to some neat individuals in the industry.

Over the coming days I hope to bring to the Inferno a few articles about AUSA and the companies involved. In the meantime I’d like to share some thoughts on the conference itself and a few photos that I took unrelated to any planned article.

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I, like a large number of attendees, took the WMATA metro into the conference center (one of the stops is literally at the front door). Soon as I deboarded I noticed that Leidos had purchased every single piece of ad space at this metro stop. I’d also like to add that this isn’t a bad photograph, the air in the metro station is just that clean.

Upon exiting the metro there is a single security guard directing people towards registration. There was no actual screening procedure as there are multiple entrances to the convention hall which is two buildings total.  I will write more on this later.

Attending AUSA was an extremely last minute thing so I was unable to register early, was forced to wander around and was eventually funneled into a registration queue. I’m not sure why but there was more than one area to register for the event.

I was instantly impressed with the attending audience for the event as well as the exhibitors. After only a few minutes of walking around, I saw a number of uniforms from militaries all over the world and big industry personalities. Surprisingly I also saw a large number of CAP, ROTC, and JROTC personnel there, starry eyed as I was as they wandered from display to display admiring the various technology.

Unfortunately due to having to leave intermittently to accomplish other tasks during the two days I was present, I was unable to really cover any of the break away panels and seminars which was something I really had hoped to do. Therefore, everything posted here is mostly related to my wanderings within the exhibit halls.

The two exhibit halls themselves were massive, and it was decidedly a huge painful folly to run back and forth in business shoes. The entrance of one of the halls is predictably dominated by two industry giants: Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics.

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General Dynamics had their LWMMG chambered in .338NM along with a GMG pointed directly at the entrance which made me chuckle. To be fair the hall was so packed full of vendors that it was virtually impossible to not have some sort of device pointed at you at some point.

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Unfortunately I didn’t wait around to ask what these translucent cased ammunition pieces were for.

Despite being one of the largest displays and having numerous reps around GD didn’t collect many gawkers, they did however collect a steady stream of older gentlemen in expensive suits seemingly looking to do business.

Naturally the brands that offer more accessible items such as clothing, PII, small arms and accessories garnered large crowds of the younger military folks. Magpul’s booth was usually stuffed with people.

Despite whatever financial troubles Colt may have or continues to have, their display was incredibly popular with crowds of folks with zero purchasing power. This was much to the chagrin of the representatives working the display. I’d watch streams of sergeants and young officers come to the Colt display and play with the selector switches, rack the bolts on the guns. The representatives would ask if they could help or provide further info and get rejected.

Overall this is unsurprising as most of the M4s and M16s in the US Army’s fleet are from Colt so they are largely a household name with soldiers regardless of their level of interest in military small arms.

Steiner Optics had an impressive display of electronics integrated into the Beretta booth. They had their full suite of low profile NODs on display with an ID beacon I’ve admittedly never seen before.

The intelligent combat optic, which I had thought initially analogous to the 1-6x SpectreDR from Elcan is not at all. It’s a fixed power 6x optic with a built in laser range finder and illuminated compensator for up to 800m. Now, on their main website and at the booth it was unclear whether or not it can switch calibers on the fly, but it is allegedly customizable from 5.56, 7.62 and 300blackout. The most interesting thing to note about the optic is the back up iron sights for the back up reflex sight.

Despite not heading to AUSA to buy a fleet of tanks or restock on cluster bombs, I found attending the AUSA to be insightful and an interesting experience. It’s a great way to get a very quick summarization of global military science developments.

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