The Sea-Air-Space Expo, held yearly near Washington, D.C. is a critical time for military contractors. The defense giants use these few days to connect and learn from the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.

That includes Huntington-Ingalls (NYSE:HII), which this week unveiled the Proteus, a dual-mode underwater vehicle designed to deliver larger payloads at distances of hundreds of miles in either manned or unmanned mode.

I was at the Expo this week, and have more about Proteus -- and the event itself -- in this video.

Transcript:

This is the big Sea-Air-Space Expo held every year outside Washington, D.C. Here you'll find some of the big contractors that we care about as investors -- such as Boeing (NYSE: BA), Raytheon (NYSE: RTN), Huntington-Ingalls (NYSE:HII), General Dynamics (NYSE: GD), and even smaller ones like AeroVironment (NASDAQ: AVAV).

Kevin Traver, Navy League: "This is primarily the Navy League's opportunity to support the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. From our point of view, as a non-profit support organization for the sea services, this is their show. It's their platform to have an open and honest discussion with industry, the media, and Congress. To get their message out about why the sea services are important, and why they need to be supported."

It is in fact an important event for any defense contractor. These companies not only have current programs with the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard -- but they must also listen and learn where these services are going in the future, and how they can be a part of it. As one company rep told me, "It's my job here to talk to general and admirals."

Besides the existing programs, there are a few highlights and surprises this year.

Kevin Traver, Navy League: Huntington-Ingalls, bringing Proteus, their new unmanned submersible here is a real coup. Outside we have the new Mark VI patrol boat that the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command brought up. Liquid Robotics has a wonderful unmanned vehicle that's solar-powered right over here. That's a neat technology that's both clean and efficient and really rugged.

The Huntington-Ingalls Proteus project was actually classified until a couple of weeks ago, and this is the first public showing.

Kevin Traver, Navy League: A new unmanned vehicle that HII brought to the show that the Navy is interested in. It's basically for long-term surveillance missions that can stay emerged for a long time. It has a hydrogen fuel cell as a battery, so it's got long life and very long legs. It can stay out on station for extended period of time, and different sensor packages can be bolted onto it for different missions. So it's not only efficient, it's economical from that point of view.

This is the 50th anniversary of Sea-Air-Space, and next year it might have a slightly different look and feel.

Kevin Traver, Navy League: One important area this year has been our international engagement. We had eight heads of Navy here this year from all over the world. Sixteen international delegations. That is a growing area for us, and a tipping point this year I thing. We could even see a name change, not to give you any inside information. Maybe Navy League Global Maritime Exhintion, or Sea-Air-Space Global, or something like that.

Reporting from the Sea-Air-Space Expo near Washington, I'm Motley Fool analyst Rex Moore.

Rex Moore has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends AeroVironment. The Motley Fool owns shares of AeroVironment. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.