When mil-spec is not enough

By John McHale

WILSONVILLE, Ore. - Sensor designers at FLIR Systems found that mil-spec requirements were falling short in the desert and other harsh environments where U.S. warfighters find themselves today, so they changed test procedures, chambers, and equipment to push their products beyond what is already a stringent standard.

Tests they set up for dust, water, wave slap, etc., did not reliably account for different sizes of dust particles and high-pressure waves, among other conditions in these climates. For salt spray, FLIR experts developed more stringent specifications and new test chambers.

“We have found in Southwest Asia theater, products need more qualification to make sure they perform the way they should,” particularly products qualified to MIL-STD 810, says David Strong, vice president of marketing at FLIR Government Systems in Wilsonville, Ore.

FLIR engineers redesigned MIL-STD 810F test systems for their SeaFLIR and TacFLIR products to more accurately measure reliability, Strong says.

The water impingement/wave slap initial design was qualified to MIL-STD 810F for blowing rain, Strong says. “Through field data analysis and customer feedback, it was determined that the operating environment [special operations craft operating at high speeds in high seas] was much more severe than what the system was being subjected to during Mil-Spec testing.”

FLIR Systems experts carried out a self-funded pre-planned product improvement program on six design iterations. Each design iteration was tested to failure using varying degrees of water pressure focused directly on seal interfaces,” Strong says. This is distinct from MIL-STD testing that involves one continuous pressure and condition. “The sixth iteration was analyzed by an independent contractor and tested extensively to identify any additional possible failure modes,” he says. “None was found. To date more than 150 systems with the R6 seal have been deployed and not a single failure has been identified.”

FLIR Systems’s beyond-mil-spec-qualified Star SAFIRE sensors are in use on the Raytheon Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS), shown above.
Click here to enlarge image

Regarding sand and dust testing, MIL-STD 810F test guidelines call for one particulate diameter, Strong says. In real-world environments, sand and dust particulate diameters vary significantly, so testing and qualifying to one particulate size does little to guarantee reliable operation of fielded systems-particularly in the deserts of the Middle East where dust can be as fine as talcum powder.

“To optimize the seal and lens designs, FLIR Systems was given an actual sample of sand and dust collected by an end user in the systems’ primary operating environment,” Strong says. “FLIR Systems analyzed the physical properties and used this data in conjunction with the water/wave slap and salt spray testing to optimize the gimbal-seal and lens-coating designs.”

FLIR took a similar sand/dust approach with their BRITE Star and BRITE Star II thermal-imaging laser designator systems, Strong says. “We used a sample of in-theater sand to verify functionality of the cooling system for the laser designator, which includes protective screening and internal portions of the cooling unit. The MIL-STD-810 test was not practical enough, because in the real world the design must allow the small particles to pass through the system while blocking the big stuff, but not clog. Testing with the real-world material confirmed the design and the system have performed flawlessly in theater.”

For salt resistance MIL-STD 810F salt-fog testing guidelines call for exposing hardware to a vaporized salt-water solution, with a limited test duration of typically four to six days, Strong explains.

“FLIR, going beyond the mil-spec, researched the salinity of the Persian Gulf and constructed our own salt-spray chamber that replicated its high-salt-spray concentrations,” Strong continues. Engineers used the chamber to determine the influence of extended periods of exposure. They learned valuable lessons and made appropriate design changes, such as new hard carbon lens coatings for greater scratch resistance and more powerful drive systems to overcome friction from salt buildup.

“As a direct byproduct of these efforts, FLIR Systems has developed a seal design that is virtually impervious to saltwater and sand and dust impingement,” Strong says. FLIR received a U.S. patent for the new seal design and now uses it on all maritime and land gimbaled systems, including SeaFLIR II/III, TacFLIR II/III, MARFLIR, Combatant Craft FLIR, SIRVSS AN/MAD-1, and SeaStar III.

For more information on FLIR Government Systems, visit www.flir.com/imaging.

Get All the Military Aerospace Electronics News Delivered to Your Inbox or Your Mailbox

Subscribe to Military Aerospace Electronics Magazine or email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest information on:

  • C4ISR
  • Cyber Security
  • Embedded Computing
  • Unmanned Vehicles

Get All the Military Aerospace Electronics News Delivered to Your Inbox or Your Mailbox

Subscribe to Military Aerospace Electronics Magazine or email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest information on:

  • C4ISR
  • Cyber Security
  • Embedded Computing
  • Unmanned Vehicles

Military & Aerospace Photos

Most Popular Articles

Related Products

Nano-D Bi-Lobes® Connectors Dual Row Horizontal SMT (Type AA)

Horizontal SMT Bi-Lobe® nanos offer an extremely low profile package that is well suited to pick ...

Nano-D BiLobe® Connectors -(COTS)

Sizes are 9, 15, 21, 25, 31, 37 , 51 & 65 pin, at .025 Mil. Pitch(Currently Available), mating pi...

Latching Micro-D Connectors

Omnetics high reliability Micro-D connectors are available with Quick Latch System. For applicati...

Micro-D Connectors

Highly rugged and compact designs in shell styles from 9 to 51 contacts. The Micro-D connectors i...

Hybrid Micro-D Connectors

Omnetics high reliability Micro-D connectors are available withmixed power/signal contact layouts...

Omnetics Nano-D Bi-Lobe® Latching Connectors

Bi-Lobe® connectors utilize rugged and reliable flex pin contact system. Spaced on 25 mil (.64mm)...

XTend7103 | COM Express® Carrier for COM Express® Type 10 Mezzanine Modules

The XTend7103 is a COM Express® carrier card designed to provide a low-cost and compact platform ...

XPedite7575 | 5th Generation Intel® Core™ i7 Broadwell-H Processor-Based Conduction- or Air-Cooled 3U VPX-REDI Module

The XPedite7575 is a high-performance, 3U VPX-REDI, single board computer based on the 5th genera...

XPort6173 | 3U VPX Carrier for Two 2.5 in. Solid-State Drives (SSDs)

The XPort6173 supports two, standard, 2.5 in. Solid-State Drives (SSDs) in a single 0.8 in. or 1....

POL Converters

Related Companies

Southwest Antennas

Designs and manufactures high-performance RF and Microwave antennas and accessories designed for today’s communicatio...

Interface Displays & Controls Inc

Certified ISO-9001/AS9100, veteran-owned, small business. Interface specializes in designing, reverse-engineering and...

Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions

About Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions (CWDS) is a long established techno...


United Electronic Industries Inc

UEI is a leader in the PC/Ethernet data acquisition and control, Data Logger/Recorder and Programmable Automation Con...

GE Aviation Systems

Designs and manufactures high reliability microelectronics for aerospace and military applications. Thick film hybrid...

Cobham AvComm (formerly Aeroflex Test Solutions)

Is a global leader in avionics, communications, and synthetic test, monitoring, and control for commercial, governmen...

KAMAKA Electronic Bauelemente Vertriebs GmbH

One of the leading Hi-Rel suppliers in Central Europe for more than 23 years. The quality of our products and the tec...

Henniker Plasma

Plasma Treatment Equipment - Plasma Cleaners, Plasma Etchers, Plasma Coating & Plasma Surface ModificationWe are the ...

Fabritech Inc

Fabritech was established in 1986 and specializes in the fabrication of EMI, RFI, and thermal shielded products made ...


The Intel Xeon-D processor and its role in high-performance embedded computing (HPEC)

The rugged Intel Xeon-D server-class multicore microprocessor is set to revolutionize high-performance embedded computing. By itself, the processor will bring unprecedented power to embedded computing applic...

Harsh Environment Protection for Advanced Electronics and Components

This webinar will offer an opportunity to learn more about ultra-thin Parylene conformal coatings – how they are applied, applications they protect today, and the properties and benefits they offer, includin...

Press Releases


Curtiss-Wright Corporation today announced that its Defense Solutions division has received a contract from Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) to supply its small form factor ...

Innovative Integration Announces the FMC-Servo

Camarillo, CA June 19, 2015, Innovative Integration, a trusted supplier of signal processing and data acquisition hardware and software solutions, today announced the FMC-S...


Curtiss-Wright Corporation today announced that its Defense Solutions division has further enhanced its innovative VRD1 high definition (HD) video management system (VMS) w...

All Access Sponsors

Mil & Aero Magazine

August 2015
Volume 26, Issue 8

Download Our Apps




Follow Us On...


Military & Aerospace Electronics

Weekly newsletter covering technical content, breaking news and product information

Cyber Security

Monthly newsletter covering cyber warfare, cyber security, information warfare, and information security technologies, products, contracts, and procurement opportunities

Defense Executive

Monthly newsletter covering business news and strategic insights for executive managers

Electronic Warfare

Quarterly newsletter covering technologies and applications in electronic warfare, cyber warfare, optical warfare, and spectrum warfare.

Embedded Computing Report

Monthly newsletter covering news on embedded computing in aerospace, defense and industrial-rugged applications

Unmanned Vehicles

Monthly newsletter covering news updates for designers of unmanned vehicles