TAMPA, Florida — Scandal. Political intrigue. Tricked-out assault helicopters disgorging masked Special Operations Forces. A noisy, smoky mock gunfight. These are just about the last things you’d expect to see at a trade show. But SOFIC — that’s the Special Operations Forces Industry Convention — had all this and more.
That’s not to say the show, held in Tampa over three days last week, didn’t also feature all the usual trappings of an industry confab. All the big defense contractors, plus plenty of little ones, were there showing off their latest radios, robots, weapons, vehicles and other gear. There were “networking breaks” over coffee and brownies. There were boring discussions of acquisitions processes. There were booth babes — models hired to lure the largely male attendees into chatting with company reps.
But the highlights of the show were the things SOFIC had that countless other confabs rarely do. The simulated battles. The surprise, high-profile speaking guest. The controversy over one general’s ill-conceived public remarks.
What follows is a visual sampling of the show’s people and products, with exclusive photos by Wired‘s Luanne Dietz.