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Future of Force Protection Goes on Display May 6

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 10, 2003 – The future of force protection may one day be a roving robot with high-tech sensors that can detect intruders and non-lethally subdue them.

That idea may sound far-fetched, but such a robotic device -- called MDARS, for Mobile Detection Assessment Response System -- was part of a Defense Department-sponsored Force Protection Equipment Demonstration a few years back and is now being procured.

Next month, DoD leaders and federal agencies can see the newest creative ideas at the Force Protection Equipment Demonstration IV May 6 and 7 at the Marine Corps Base, Quantico, Va.

The event is co-sponsored by the Department of Justice and DoD's Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate, Department of Energy and Transportation Security Administration.

Eugene Hudson, chairman of the Physical Security Equipment Action Group, Office of the Secretary of Defense, said that FPED IV will provide DoD and other federal-level representatives a chance to look at commercial off-the shelf force protection equipment that fits their need and can be put to use within 90 days.

"The most valuable aspect is that leaders see what is available and what is possible," Hudson said. "The purpose is not necessarily to buy equipment. What we do is raise the awareness of all involved of what is available, what is possible, and further the process."

More than 500 vendors from U.S. and allied-nation security equipment manufacturers are expected to show off their latest equipment technology, Hudson said.

Last year's demonstration attracted vendors from the United Kingdom, Canada, Israel, Germany, Austria, Sweden and Italy. More than 7,000 visitors attended the two-day event.

Most equipment demonstrated will be developments that have come about as a result of past terrorist attacks on DoD personnel and U.S. government interests.

For example, Hudson said the bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996 that killed 19 servicemen and the terrorist attack on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000 that killed 17 sailors spawned the need for blast resistant materials.

"A lot of the equipment (not only) deals with blast mitigation technology and blast resistant windows and structures," Hudson explained. He said, however, that different services and government organizations are interested in all types of force protection equipment. It runs the gamut, he noted, including items such as barriers "that would keep people from entering points (and) under- vehicle inspection systems with detection means."

Other force protection equipment scheduled for demonstration includes night-vision and optics devices; waterside security equipment; unattended ground sensors; explosives detection and cargo inspection devices; and chemical and biological detection equipment.

Vendors will also demonstrate non-lethal weapons and technology, soldier protective equipment, access-control equipment, unmanned aerial vehicles, robotic vehicles and systems, and armored vehicles.

Hudson encourages DoD personnel to register online at www.fped4.org to attend the event. The demonstration is closed to the general public. [link is no longer available]

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