7 new pieces of hardcore military hardware

Robots, drones, lasers! The Navy may be on a reduced budget, but that's not stopping it from building the maritime fighting force of the future.

Wonderland of weapons
Navy tech opener

Take a small legion of top navy brass from around the globe, pack them into a convention hall full of mocked-up fighter jets, the latest in unmanned aerial hardware, rows of matte gray precision guided projectiles, menacing robotic shipboard defense cannons, and myriad high-powered cameras and sensors -- so many sensors! -- and you can start to envision Sea-Air-Space, the Navy's annual defense technology confab. Designed to put the latest in naval armament and support systems in the same room with the very people who use them, Sea-Air-Space is part industry trade show, part arms bazaar, and part defense industry social event.

It's also something of a bellwether for the global defense industry. Sea-Air-Space is often the venue for big reveals from both the Navy and the biggest names in aerospace and maritime technology--names like Boeing (BA, Fortune 500), Lockheed Martin (LMT, Fortune 500), Northrop Grumman (NOC, Fortune 500), Textron (TXT, Fortune 500), and Huntington Ingalls (HII). But it's also a place where contractors and militaries offer glimpses into their ongoing programs of record and let us see -- or at least extrapolate -- what the fighting forces of tomorrow will look like.

What does arms procurement in the age of austerity look like? Think robots, drones, and retrofits that make the dumb weapons of previous generations into more efficient, more cost effective tools of modern defense.

  @FortuneMagazine - Last updated April 12 2013 01:08 PM ET
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