Five Military Trends Paving the Way for Harsh Environment Connectivity

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By Matt O’Leary, Field Application Engineer, published in Connector Supplier

The military, like all electronics markets, requires connectors that are as small, fast, and lightweight as possible while being durable and secure. Even in the harshest environments, modern military electronics must take up less space yet reach the highest speeds the industry can offer. Therefore, the connectors used on military equipment must excel under these five conditions: durability, size, speed, cybersecurity, and versatility.

Rugged connectors or interconnect systems are specifically designed to be reliable in harsh environments with conditions such as strong vibration, extreme temperature, moisture, and dust. They need to withstand high altitudes, shock, humidity, and harsh sealing requirements. For military use, interconnects must be designed to survive the different military environments, including air, land, sea, and space. Rugged connectors need to be manufactured using the highest standards with a focus on strength, safety, and efficiency while maintaining a high level of quality. It is vital that these products perform reliably when needed in the field. The external housing and connections are not the only parts that must handle these conditions. The internal components of the equipment and the connector itself need to be rugged as well. Both the external housing and internal components are rigorously tested and qualified to ensure that they can handle any environment that soldiers or their equipment may encounter.

Reduced size and weight of the military systems, paired with the ever-increasing demand for faster data exchange rates in telecommunication networks, have driven the demand for high-speed electronics and passive components. As a result, system designers face extensive challenges, most notably in the preservation of high-speed signal integrity through system stacks. To maximize communication speeds, the design of high-speed systems requires technology offering the greatest data rate for each architecture level (boards, contacts, connectors, and cables).

Just as companies need to protect their data from hackers looking to steal information, the military needs to protect its network against cyberattacks from enemies. Cybersecurity is achieved through a combination of physical precautions, software solutions, and password strategies. The military must take precise steps to ensure its network is secure. Providing proprietary interfaces to connectors that differ from the standard commercial interfaces helps make the military network more secure. The µCom, which is offered for both Cat 6A/Cat 7 Ethernet and USB 3.0 signals uses an interface that differs from the standard commercial interface and adds another layer of security which decreases the risk of an enemy hacking into the system. Commonly used standard USB-A or RJ45 ports make it much easier for the enemy to hack. Utilizing locking devices reduces the risk of intrusion into the electronics through the connectors.

The military needs versatile connectors. The USB-C interface is expected to become popular in military equipment as a new generation of devices come into use. USB-C has a very small interface, achieves a high data rate, and can be inserted into a military connector shell. Compared to the USB-A interface, USB-C, a high-speed connector, is much more compact and comparable in size to micro-USB connectors. The new USB-C cables double the data transfer rate that traditional USB cables can achieve, increasing the data rate from 5 Gb/s to 10 Gb/s. USB-C cables can handle significantly more power than traditional USB cables, which are limited to 5 watts. USB-C cables improve the power capability to 25 watts. The military is quickly adapting to USB-C for applications, especially as USB-C ports are already found in the latest laptops and phones. Ultimately, durability, size, cybersecurity, and versatility are five military trends that will pave the way for the future of harsh environment connectivity.

Reducing size and weight in military equipment, combined with the increasing demand for faster data exchange rates in telecommunications, is essential on the battlefield and in military installations. In addition, cybersecurity is crucial for protecting military networks from enemy attacks. Finally, the military needs versatile connectors. Connectors such as the new USB-C, with its small interface, high data rate, and easy insertion into a military connector shell, are ideal. Small form factor rugged connectors that can withstand harsh environments, and are high-speed and lightweight, will enable more effective military equipment designs in the years to come.