TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Special Operations Forces Industry Conference is a chance for the makers of military equipment and software to demonstrate their products to military leaders from around the world.
SOFIC is held at the Tampa Convention Center in part because U.S. Special Operations Command and U.S. Central Command are based in Tampa at MacDill Air Force Base.
This year, many of the companies are paying close attention to what is and isn’t working on the battlefield in Ukraine.
“From an industry perspective, it’s all about providing rapid response,” President of the intelligence and surveillance sector with L3Harris Luke Savoie said. “The most effective thing is to have a thing. So to be able to provide effective product quickly and to look at our current inventory and provide options to decision-makers in the U.S. To provide capability to the Ukrainians is really what our responsibility is right now.”
Large companies like General Dynamics have booths on the Tampa Convention Center Floor this week. Small companies like Atlas Devices are also represented.
“We are a small company, originally founded out of MIT,” Nate Ball with Atlas Devices said. “We are a couple of mechanical engineers working in the lab, found out that there’s a lot challenging tasks related to lifting and hoisting and rescue.”
His company produces equipment that can be used to rapidly scale the sides of ships. Ball demonstrated it’s use, looking like Batman rapidly going up a steel wall inside the convention center.
This isn’t a Hollywood Movie though, and Ball and others are looking to learn from the experiences of Ukraine to make their products even better.
“It’s a chance for us to interface with people that are out there doing operations and have inside experience with the kinds of things that are happening there and bring their experience back to us so we can develop capabilities that are actually influenced by what is happening right now,” Ball said.
Most people will not be allowed into the conference, but people who want to get a glimpse of Special Forces teams in action can come down to the Tampa Convention Center on Wednesday between 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. for a demonstration. More than 170 special forces operators from 11 nations will be in action.
It’s strongly recommended that if you are close to the action, bring ear protection. The demonstration is very loud with explosions and mock gunfire that sounds and looks like the real thing.